Friday, February 5, 2010

Pierced Arrows

Descending Shadows (Vice Records, 01.10)

For: Neil Young, Husker Du, The Melvins

Byline: Forty-five years in the making, Fred Cole produces a record worthy of being called timeless. Originally published on Used by permission from In Your Speakers, LLC.

Last week I thought I made a huge tiny mistake. When the Pierced Arrow’s album showed up in the InYourSpeakers album pool I mistook them for an amazing post-punk group called Bows + Arrows I had seen while living in Seattle. When I checked out Pierced Arrow’s I realized my blunder; long hair, leather, and bolo ties on a threesome older than my parents. Why was I being directed to a Black Sabbath cover band? Is 2010 really such a weak year that I am being forced to cover bar-rock bands? Little did I know what was about to hit me as I clicked the link to preview their first single, or the vast musical heritage that came embedded in that song’s first fuzzed out power chord. I would say that Descending Shadows is one of this still-young year's most important and powerful musical statements.

A few things tipped me off that Pierced Arrows are more than your run-of-the-mill, dive bar denizens. First, they were recently signed to Vice Records, home of Black Lips, Growing, Chromeo, etc, etc, etc. Second, they were on tour with Lullabye Arkestra. And third, and this will be the crux of my review, they kill it. Majorly. Pierced Arrows are the singular music vision of legendary musician Fred Cole, whose musical output (he put out his first single in 1965 folks) has run the gamut from blue eyed soul, 60’s psychedelic bubblegum pop, country, punk, to his longest running outlet Dead Moon which combined all of the above in some form. Arising out of the ashes of Dead Moon, Fred and his wife Troody teamed up with Portland punk drummer Kelly Haliburton to form something akin to, but totally different from, their previous band.

The first couple notes of the album opener “This is the Day” hit me with such force that that I had to put aside my ageist preconceptions and sit with my ears glued to my speakers. “This is the Day” announces itself with an absolutely massive major chord riff played by all members in unison, a throwback to seventies metal groups like Iron Butterfly and Black Sabbath whose show-stopping power chord breakdowns could unconsciously slacken the jaw muscles of anyone with proximity to a good set of speakers. The sound, recorded in with decidedly lo-fi approach, sounds a bit like the Melvins, whose down-tuned everything give the bass an extra punch and give the entire recording a sludgy distorted quality. After the announcement that something awesome is about to happen, Cole’s world-weary croak, which after an extensive mental triangulation I have narrowed down to a cross between Ian Mackaye, Neil Young, and Ozzy Osbourne, lets loose a lament over a subdued, country-tinged guitar riff. The fist-pumping, shout-along punk chorus sounds like a direct response to being blown away by the Ramones in the seventies and then opening for them in the eighties.

After everything is said and done, what truly sets this record apart from anything that I have heard this year is the very thing that made me recoil from the band in the first place. Their age. The Coles have been around the block more than a few times, have seen friends abandon them, die tragically, and have taken the stage during personal heartbreak to bury themselves behind waves of static and stage personas. On the closing track the Coles sing, “you don’t how it feels/you don’t know how it feels/coming down to earth”. You don’t. You probably will someday, but you really don’t. Let’s see a twenty year old write something like that.

Ryan H.

Full review available at

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