It’s a ballsy move to give your band a name as epic as Bass Drum of Death, but Mississippi’s John Barrett went for it. If you’re going to give yourself that kind of moniker, you better release music that’s going to kick the goddamn door in and mess the place up. The previous two releases — 2011’s GB City and 2013’s self-titled — were cram-packed with Ty Segall-esque, fuzzy, grinding hooks and Barrett’s snarling screams, but only left the place moderately fucked up. With the newest release, Rip This, Bass Drum of Death cleans up the production a little bit and leans more into the punk and garage rock side of things, but they still don’t quite explode like they should.
The lead single, “Left for Dead”, is a solid blast of musty punk breath. Barrett’s buzz saw guitars hack, slice, and fight back as he bends the strings to his will, while drummer Len Clark beats his skins within an inch of their lives. This track, along with the hangover anthem “For Blood” and the Nirvana-esque “Sin Is in 10” are punk rock dreams. The guitar keeps a trebly yell, and Barrett plays the hell out of it. They have a catchy garage sound that also hearkens back to dark basement California punk and helps separate Bass Drum of Death from the rest of the Ty Segall imitators cropping up everywhere on the scene. Simply put, the songs are more focused and trimmed than their previous efforts.
However, aside from those songs, the rest of the album fails to really differentiate itself. The ear-ringing hum from the guitar and cymbals just fades into white noise after a while, and it’s hard to know where one track ends and another begins. Barrett is an imaginative guitarist and songwriter, but the combination of thin distortion, slap-echo-reverb on the vocals, and back-of-the-mix drums gets tired. The production is cleaner than on previous albums, which helps bring Barrett’s excellent vocals forward, but it also amplifies that thin, tinny distortion a bit too much. Bass Drum of Death certainly have the power they need to live up to the name, but, unfortunately, they haven’t quite found the right combination of explosives to really blow the place apart. Rip This is a step forward, but it’s a small, staggered one.
Essential Tracks: “Sin is in 10”, “For Blood”, and “Left for Dead”