ALBUM REVIEW: Archie Bronson Outfit “Wild Crush”

Archie Bronson Outfit

Hailing from the charming city of Bath in southwestern England comes Archie Bronson Outfit, who make the kind of blistering rock n’ roll more commonly associated with acts on our side of the pond. Since their debut in 2004 with Fur, Archie Bronson Outfit have released Derdang Derdang (2006), Coconut (2010), and most recently, Wild Crush, all on Domino Records. Consisting of Sam Windett, Mark “Arp” Cleveland, and Kristian “Kapital K” Robinson (who replaced founding member Dorian Hobday) the band has made a name for themselves by creating retro tunes with tight composition, guitar heavy melodies, and quirky instrumental combinations.

Longtime fans of Archie Bronson will note the striking presence of longtime collaborator Duke Garwood, who is featured on the baritone sax for many of the tracks on Wild Crush and provides rich new textures that were absent on previous albums. The tracks here are diverse – so much so that initially, it sounds as though they could’ve come from nine different bands. But upon further investigation, certain underlying compositional characteristics can be extracted from the LP as a whole.

For instance, the trio definitely have an ear for what instruments sound cool together. The combination of cello, keyboard and saxophone on “Lori From The Outer Reaches” is nothing short of beauty. “Love To Pin You Down” melds together a chordant keyboard, melodic saxophone and droning guitar. On lead single “Two Doves on a Lake,” the saxophone plays a rambling discordant melody over a heavily distorted whammy guitar while the bass cuts through to create a powerful and energetic instrumental.

Perhaps the most interesting pairing on Wild Crush is that of Windett’s voice with other instruments as a means for harmonization. The band loves to use vocals as instruments for harmonization any chance that they get. On “We Are Floating,” the vocals and the bass come together at the end of the second verse to initiate the guitar solo and again to finish the song. On a sugar-sweet “Country Miles,” an organ harmonizes at different intervals with the vocals throughout the song. The vocals even harmonize with a flute on “Two Doves On A Lake.” Throughout the record, Windett’s vocals remain diverse, from the restrained spaciness of “Lori From The Outer Reaches” to the aggressive, theatrical “Hunch Your Body, Love Somebody” and the shaky, almost-nervous intonations of “Love to Pin You Down,” a rare track in which the singer’s accent adds a dandy British flair.

The element gluing Wild Crush together most effectively remains the band’s penchant for rollicking solos. Each song diverges slightly from its structure to include a prolonged instrumental section, and oftentimes, that’s where the caterwauling, unhinged sax comes in. All of the songs are driven by distinct and heavy guitar riffs, too, reminding us all that first and foremost, Archie Bronson is a rock Outfit.

And if you need further reminders of that reality, look no further than the myriad nods the band gives to their rock and folk predecessors on Wild Crush. Sometimes it is subtle – the vocals in “Two Doves On A Lake” for instance, would be right at home on metal bands of the ‘70s and ‘80s, and one can’t help but sense a connection to modern-day acts like Queens of The Stone Age. Other times, the parallels are more blatant. The harmonious vocals on “Glory, Sweat and Flow” call to mind The Byrds, while the chorus is strikingly similar to The Velvet Undergrounds’ “I’ll Be Your Mirror.” And whether accidental or lifted as a means of homage, the lyric melody follows Silver Apples’ “I Have Known Love” almost to the note.

Their musical influences may be a little too evident at times, but somehow, Wild Crush doesn’t quite come off as a wholly derivative album.  On the contrary, the band seems to have mastered an understanding of their genre and have developed a self awareness of where they fit inside it.  By embracing the sounds of their predecessors they are ironically carving out a space for themselves through the subtle implementation of a number of distinct and overlaying musical characteristics. Through the development of these signature characteristics, they position themselves more as authorities than copy cats.

Like archaeologists unearthing artifacts and reappropriating them for a new era, Archie Bronson Outfit has found the innovation in the retread, cohesive themes in the random, and complexity in the simplistic.

They’ll be playing a handful of dates, including some festivals, throughout Europe this summer. No word on when they’ll make it to the states for some live appearances. Wild Crush is out now, and you can watch a video for “We Are Floating” below.

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