Published March 1997, Live Wire
A heavy wad of aggressive, metalish thud and raw, semi-Vedder vocals kicks Gouds Thumb's self-titled Critique/BMG Records debut off on a promising note.
Grafting huge slabs of U2-like sonic angst and Cheap Trick-caliber pop hooks onto a shifting, ponderous beat layered with droning guitars; the song is a perfect set up for the hyperactive churn of the album's second track, the buzzing, instantly-memorable near-hit, "29."
As poetically vague as a Michael Stipe lyric, the words make absolutely no sense when read aloud - sung at the top of your lungs blasting down the freeway, however, the song takes on the emotional depth and personal significance of classic youth anthems such as "Creep," "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Louie, Louie."
"When I write lyrics," comments lead vocalist/guitarist Connor (just Connor, thank you), "my goal is to create a vision for the listener for them to get out of the lyrics whatever they need to get out of them."
And so it goes on this New York by way of New Jersey, Maine and Boston four-piece's stunning 12-song debut. One amazingly loud blast of swirling, guitar-laden, Rage Against The Machine-heavy noise tempered by traces of Zeppelin, U2, Sabbath, Beatles, Cheap Trick, Big Black, Hüsker Dü, Spent Poets, School Of Fish and Fugazi influences follows another at breakneck speed.
A stunning aural assault of harmonic shifts, quirky time changes, head-bangin' sonic vibes, subtle variation, studio trickery (courtesy of producer Fred "Eve's Plumb, Matthew Sweet" Maher) and genuine, radio-friendly songs; the album is a surprisingly mature first-time effort.
'We wanted to make a very song-oriented record," adds Connor. "Not just another 'alternative' record, but one with a lot of diversity (as well)."
Despite the relative newness of the band, three-quarters of Gouds Thumb have already enjoyed successful careers during the group's previous incarnation as The Sense, one of the tri-state area's best-ever cover bands.
Playing the East Coast cover circuit, drummer Bernard Willimann, Connor and bassist Jeff Kral were a popular, if somewhat unfulfilled, group of musicians just a few short years ago.
After hooking up with guitarist/vocalist Walter Craven in 1994, however, the foursome decided to ditch the Top 10 tunes, change the name of the band, and set to music the original lyrics Connor had been writing all along.
"Adding Walt to the group," offers Connor, "seemed to open up so many more doors for us musically. It made all the difference in the world for us. Walt turned a pretty decent band into a great, I think, band."
At about the same time Craven signed on, a bit of airplay at a small Jersey Shore radio station (WHTG FM 106.3) for a Sense original ("Carnival") resulted in a sizable increase in the crowds that flocked to the just re-christened band's numerous Garden State gigs.
The attention - and one amazing live gig - were all it took to convince Crazed Management's Johnny Z. of Gouds Thumb's unlimited potential.
Hands were clasped, hopes were expressed, backs were slapped, signatures were scribbled and, in a surprisingly short period of time, a 12-song wallop of a debut hit the racks and "29" immediately began turning up on play lists across the nation.
An overnight sensation some six or seven years in the making.
"We didn't really know what to expect at first," reflects Connor on his band's increase in stature on the rock 'n' roll pecking order. "It's an isolated sort of thing, you know the record company tells you you're getting played in one part of the country - but you're off in a totally different time zone playing to, like, 10 people on a Tuesday night."
"After awhile, it just sounds like people talking, you know. It's hard, really, to envision your song being " he pauses and resumes thoughtfully, " but, then, when we finally show up in those cities and towns and there are actually people there to see us play. People who know our songs and sing along with them "
"There's nothing better than playing for a great crowd," interjects the previously quiet Craven. "You know, it's really important to us," he adds, "that the songs we write and record are good enough"
" and strong enough," offers Connor picking up the new thread.
" that we'll enjoy playing them two years down the road," finishes Craven.
"One of our major concerns when we were making the record," adds Connor, "was that there were no 'dead' spots on it. You know, those tracks you, uhm skip over each time you listen to it."
"I think we did allright," Craven says softly.
E-mail Gouds Thumb at: email@example.com; visit the band's web site at: www.themusiczone.com/crazedworld; or, write to Critique Records at: 50 Cross Street, Winchester, MA 01890.
-- AL MUZER