Listening to Sweet Apple’s debut, Love and Desperation, is like going on a road trip through the history of alt-rock, but in reverse. You start out in a place that’s very close to home, then, as the record progresses, you go further back toward where it all started, leaving you with a pleasantly wide range that goes from bluesy Sabbath to rowdy southern grunge rock. That being said, what Sweet Apple does is nothing groundbreaking, instead sticking with what they do best, giving us a reminder of the good times from whence they came. For a band made up of guys who helped reinvent rock for nineties, there’s a lot of history in the air. On their debut, that sense of nostalgia hangs overhead, resulting in a straightforward rock record that’s meant to be turned way up. That should be no surprise though. I mean, have you ever listened to anything J Mascis has done with the volume not cranked? It’s just wrong any other way.
The record takes the good-times tone of opening track “Do You Remember” and runs with it hard. It’s an easy-to-chug mix of hook-charged bar rock and crunchy angst that amps you up for the rest of the record. Catchy riffs aside, the songs here have been written like campfire stories of the good old days, talking about what veteran musicians know best, touring, drugs, women, and bars. The grungy blues beast “Flying Up The Mountain” couldn’t make things clearer: “I fucked when I was 13, but baby,I was born too late.” I have the feeling Jack White’s cranking this one especially.
Love carries more of the blues than you might be used too from these musicians, and, in doing so, shows just enough separation from what was to what is. “Hold Me, I’m Dying” is the glam’ed up country style rocker with smashing drums, adding to another sexed up track. Things get a little psychedelic on “Blindfold”, with Iommi-like riffs and a guitar solo scorching the last half of the track. There are plenty more of those sharp wailing high notes littered all over the record, but by the time they get to them on each song, they’re showing off.
By playing off the stuff they listened to growing up for the kids who grew up listening to them, you end up with 70’s rock by way of the west coast in ’91. It’s all still brand new for everyone involved, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way to the listener. As the styles fluctuate from the melodically Petty-esque track “It’s Over Now” to the southern bruising of “Crawling Over Bodies”, it’s all done so naturally. Even when a simple drum machine is broken out for the dreamy “Dead Moon” it doesn’t ever sound awkward or out of place, instead fitting right in with the gritty sound of the record.
So what is Sweet Apple? A grunge era super-group, or a rowdy blues-rock band with nothing to lose? Well, really, it’s both. The combination packs quite the punch for the 40 minutes of ear bashing, slightly mind-altering rock. You can hear where the guitar heroes of the new millennium got their chops. But, influence aside, it’s about the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll at it’s loudest. At this stage in life, the guys just want you to have fun and enjoy a solid rock record that’s real and doesn’t have to prove anything. So throw up a fist, bang your head, and hell, maybe even mosh a little, but don’t miss this record.
“Do You Remember?”