To put things in a context that should mean absolutely nothing to you: What I offer you today is the best song about post-apocalyptic blowjobs you will ever hear in your entire life. Ever.
The Night Marchers shouldn’t work. The best thing about Marchers’ singer John Reis’ previous band Hot Snakes, was that it had John Reis and all of his songwriting prowess and igneous ROCK, but none of his vocals. It’s not that Reis has a bad voice, he just has a voice that reminds me of two things I could live without, the singer from Smashmouth and iron lunged distant relatives who started smoking a pack a day at 14 and are still at it 70 years later. His voice is gravely but nasal, not exactly pleasant, but not callous enough to be punk. The last band where he sang, Rocket From The Crypt worked because his voice was one of a few elements shoved way up in the speakers; loud firecracker drums, bloodsucked guitars, and those blaring horn parts. The Night Marchers are a much more stripped down band, just guitar (provided by Gar from Hot Snakes) bass and drums. That voice is always there.
You’re also venturing into risky territory if you’re one of the most important figures in independent rock music from the the 90s and 00s (seriously, don’t discount the impact that Drive Like Jehu had, nor how good both Rocket from the Crypt and Hot Snakes were), you’re over 40, and you’re on your 80th or so band, and suddenly you decide to have Philip Roth ghostwrite your lyrics. The songs on See You in Magic, The Night Marcher’s first album are almost entirely about fucking. These are not subtle songs. “Lets be best friends on the floor,” Reis suggests on “Closed for Inventory.” “In Dead Sleep (I Snore ZZZZ),” has Reis asking, “pressed tightly against you, was I born or did I die?” “”Who’s Lady R U” has the deep bass thud of 70s porn soundtracks, just played at twice the speed. “You’ve got nerve, but don’t cut me loose” Reis warns on the more toned down “You’ve Got Nerve.” To be honest, I’m not sure if I could tell you what Reis’ song’s were about before the Night Marchers, but here, it’s crystal clear.
Here’s the surprising thing: Despite the band’s collective age, and the fact that Reis will probably not rock as hard as he did in Hot Snakes ever again, The Night Marchers work, both as an ongoing part of Reis legacy, as a new band onto themselves. The reason for this are can be summed up in “We’re Going Down.”
Reason The First: The band knows their history. For this song, the band drags one of the most familiar rock melodies of all time out of the closet for this song, but they slosh and swagger around in it enough to make it interesting. And things like that happen all over the album; the band plays on hard driving funk on “Who’s Lady R U” and works with something that reminds me a lot of Early Blue Oyster Cult on the more drawn out “And I Keep Holding On.” The band know they’re working at recycling on a certain level, but they bring enough energy, and pure joy to these songs that you won’t care one bit.
Reason The Second: These songs show a sharp wit, and a great sense of humor. Look at the lyrics for “We’re Going Down,” starting with it’s hilariously deadpan opening line, “Would you believe that it’s only Armageddon?” The line works both as an overview of the song’s landscape and as the initial pickup line that Reis is trying: c’mon, we might not be here tomorrow. But it’s though that drawn out chorus, which repeats the songs title ove, and over, that Reis’ duel meaning becomes evident, and, if not there, then in the absolute best spoonerism I’ve ever heard: “Just lip me rim from rim.” (which Reis halfheartedly corrects moments later, mumbling “oh, limb from limb”). The song is hilarious, fun, and, above all, just another in a long string of really, really good rock and roll songs from John Reis.
and I’m running on empty by way of new music at this point: Anyone have any suggestions? Really, I’m up for anything that doesn’t sound like Animal Collective.