REVIEW BY JASON TOON
On pedigree alone, the Union Electric is an intriguing proposition. Singer/guitarist/banjo-picker Tim Rakehell spent several years (and several releases) leading Bad Folk through the darkest backwoods of acoustic Americana, sometimes as the band's only member. Guitarist Glenn Burleigh and drummer Eric von Damage previously played rhythmic, shouty post-Fugazi hardcore in the Adversary Workers, with von Damage also keeping the angular, whacked-out beat for Corbeta Corbata. Reconciling the two strains - under the umbrella of the left/anarchist politics shared by both camps - has the potential to produce something that could thrill jaded local ears (and maybe chill the lackeys of global capitalism, too, who knows?).
The debut 7" it'll release tonight at Off Broadway surrounds Rakehell's weathered, foreboding voice with a noise and force never heard from Bad Folk. On "Ship Out Of Luck", Burleigh lays sheets of guitar screech over Von Damage's dirge-shanty rhythm. Rakehell's vocal resemblance to Jay Farrar takes a turn toward Shane MacGowan in this characteristic tale of death on the churning sea. "Sentence" is equal parts galloping "Rawhide" ratatat and thrashable SoCal hardcore, both in sound and in Rakehell's lyrical stance: "I despise you / Hang me for it," he growls. His denunciation of spiritual and political corruption gathers epic force on the record's closer, "You Have Been Served" (previously featured on A to Z here).
Again, Burleigh's fuzzy, psych-punk guitar and von Damage's martial rhythms create the perfect haunted landscape for sentiments such as, "The new standard of an honest man is one who stays bought after you've paid him."
For musicians with such well-defined identities, it's impressive that the Union Electric's debut doesn't sound like anything in anybody's back catalog. With new bassist Melinda Cooper (ex-A Bit Shifty) making her debut with the band tonight, their arresting punk-folk-psychedelia fusion should only get more - that word again - intriguing.
With Second Story Man, Tenement Ruth, and Ben Pranger at Off Broadway, 3511 Lemp Avenue. Doors at 7:30, show at 8. Tickets are $7 ($10 for under-21s). Call 314-773-3363 or see offbroadwaystl.com for details.