I must admit that the thought of a new release from Gallon Drunk was a bit exciting. Lead singer, guitarist and organist, James Johnston has been a revelation to experience in recent years with Faust, though mostly creating fantastic sounds and noises with his guitar and organ. Terry Edwards comes along as a guest with his saxophone occasionally, creating additional depth to whatever is happening on stage. Gallon Drunk did tour with Lydia Lunch for some time as Big Sexy Noise, and it was as that I saw them live in Germany a couple of years ago. Appearing as a steady rock act, and of course with Lydia Lunch, much is focused on her doings. That aside, Gallon Drunk also did a full set, and I saw what a charismatic singer Johnston also was. The noise and experiments, it seemed, had been put away in the Faust-locker, but the steady refreshing powerful hard rock band was very much alive.Then enters The Road Gets Darker From Here. Angry, raw, rough rhythm and blues, but melodic and with a driven energy that comes from a long line of bands starting way back with (and takes me back to) The Stooges. During the Faust years, Johnston has connected with German producer Johann Scheerer, who did a brilliant job with this album, recorded on analogue tape, and pushing Gallon Drunk to recreate some of that raw power from the live stage. It also made me think of influences from Johnston’s years with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, almost as they have gone a parallel path to Grinderman, but with better songs (!).
Starting up with the really catchy single “You Made Me” (it literally ran in my head for a while after a couple of spins), which sets the pace for an album that is full of good rock ’n’ roll melodies. But they are not as easygoing all the way through. Rhythm and blues aside, they come on hard and rough, James Johnston spitting out of my speakers, Ian White pounding those drums steady as a rock, and the multi-instrumentalist Terry Edwards colouring the tunes with his sax and bass or percussions (he’s said to be the steadiest maracas player east of the Atlantic). Songs are very well written and arranged, stuffed with layers of sounds and instruments, and some occasional strange noise and feedback appears in the background to fill out the sound image. Songs range from sleazy rock ‘n’ roll guitar fury with saxophonography and boogie to the hypnotic slowing down on final track “The Perfect Dancer.” Additional haunting vocals on a couple of tracks are well done by Marion Andrau from Underground Railroad.This album takes Gallon Drunk back to some of their previous highs, or even further. It’s as steady as a telephone pole in the middle of a mass-production hell of rock that has gone to overblown proportions with home-recording possibilities. The Road Gets Darker From Here goes the other way; Gallon Drunk creates an album of brilliant songs, recorded with energy and a rough and dirty sound, but with musicianship and commitment. Don’t miss them live this year. They might be bigger next.
Not to mention that they are nice and friendly people.