Wednesday, September 26, 2012

... BAD BOAT "lonely doom"

If you dig Howlin' Widow, who have also been featured on these pages, and singer Tom Clarke's aggressive timbre in particular, you might want to know what he did before joining that band, namely fronting Bad Boat, a similarly ill-fated bunch that was founded in 2002 and disbanded in 2009. This four track re-release of their final effort most notably features a live rendition of seminal Psych-outift Spirit's "Mechanical World" from 1968, but is an overall appealing affair.

The opening title track features guest singer Jason Hendry and comes across as a raw midtempo riffer with admonishing vocals of a strikingly expressive variant, yet doesn't sound pretentious. Halfway through, Bad Boat quickly kick out their jams and offer a gripping finish with a short but effective solo. The veritable hookline ("baby, it's only lonely doom") makes it a complete success.

The mentioned cover tune is not much heavier than the real thing (as one could have expected) and pays respect to Randy California's composition, which means that guitarist Graeme Heyburn engages in melodic playing mostly while Clarke likely reaches a peak in his singing career. Bad Boat succeed in maintaining the original spirit of … uh, Spirit, while adding their own sludgy tinge to it, so it is not the mere choice of this track that speaks of their class.

Clocking in after around eight minutes, "Lucky To Be Breathing" can be called the band's epic. After a moody intro with tasty guitar fade-ins, it misleads the listener with Wah-driven swell, but no - the expected outburst doesn't materialize. Instead, the focus stays on the vocals until Heyburn directs his floating riffs towards dynamic heights. At its moderate sonic climax, the arrangements ebb away rather slowly, giving you time to breathe after this lengthy but convincing display of emotion.

B-side closer "Uphill Struggle" follows along the lines of the A-side opener, probably pushing the band closer to traditional Doom in the vain of St. Vitus than any other of the songs. Here just as elsewhere on this EP, the appeal lies in the no-frills live setting (recordings mastered by James Plotkin), and it's impressing how the group unifies a tight performance with feeling as well as attitude in a way that sounds totally natural. Again, dedicated label Freak Flag issues a piece of wax for lovers of bands that have fallen by the wayside, be it justly so or not. In any event, Bad Boat have been no innovators, but musicians doing their thing without aiming at a particular scene and begging to belong - which is more than many of those still around can claim for themselves.

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