The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol (TBWNIAS) is a band that I first came across last year when Cardinal Fuzz released ‘Masters of the Molehill’, apparently the band’s ninth album. Such was it’s impact on me that within a couple of weeks it was on our list of essential albums for 2015. Little did I know at that time that TBWNIAS have an extensive back catalogue of self-released albums that collectively (and individually for that matter) represented something of a sonic mother lode; a rich seam of music that was just there waiting to get a wider audience.
Now, following Drone Rock Records raw and improvised release ‘Live At Dominion Tavern 2010‘, comes a real humdinger of a box set from Cardinal Fuzz; comprising three absolute stunners from the TBWNIAS back catalogue:
- TBWNIS VS. The Purveyors of Conspicuous Authenticity
- Scrappy Little Jaw
I have been lucky enough to have spent some time with these over the last few weeks, listening to them in particular during long walks, and in many ways find it difficult to describe what they are about. This is because TBWNIAS create music that has so many influences and spans so many genre that it is hard to keep up with what is going on. Listening to these albums is somehow like listening to every album in your record collection (well mine anyway), and yet at the same time they are different from anything you have in your record collection.
You could listen to TBWNIAS and dissect what these guys are doing, but that to me would be a wholly fruitless endeavour given the number of riffs, baselines, drum runs, synth flourishes and the like which hit you: usually like a steam train pounding down the tracks. Why spend so much time wondering which band this, that or the other has come from (although this is hugely tempting) when you can just dig this stuff for what it is? And what this is to me is a bunch of guys totally getting off on playing music, my sort of music! The sort of music I’ve been listening to for a good 40 years now in all its variety.
But there’s nothing so annoying as a review that tells you nothing about what sort of music it is, right? Well this is, by name at least, a blog about psych music; and TBWNIAS are psych in the broadest sense. I say this because the music on offer here has a power and a relentlessness to it that really lets you lose yourself in it. Many of the tracks are long, improvised and just drill straight into your head…especially with the unceasing riffs that power the tracks, and the bass/ drum combinations that build up that head of steam and keep the tracks taught and grippy all the way through; but even the shorter ones feel immense. This is a band that is free and easy in its approach, but is by no means loose and unfocussed.
To the uninitiated TBWNIAS has been going since being founded in 2008 by Mark McIntyre (bass, Red Hots/Weapons Of Mass Seduction) and John Westhaver (drums, Exploding Meet/Resin Scraper). The two were fresh from four years as the rhythm section of a garage psych outfit called ‘Four ‘N’ Giv’r’, who released two full length albums. Since April of 2011 TBWNIS have been performing and recording as a six-piece group. The current lineup including Jason Vaughan (ex-Cold Coffee & Salty Boots) on electronics/keys/percussion, Dave Reford (Castor) on guitar and percussion and Flecton Big Sky on guitar.
There were actually eight musicians involved in making 2010’s ‘TBWNIS VS. The Purveyors of Conspicuous Authenticity’, the group’s fourth album. It originally has a very limited vinyl release of 100 numbered copies and, as states in the box set booklet, “was born initially out of long improvised 1st time pieces, revisited and then executed with a moderate form of structure.” You can really tell this from the first bars of album opener ‘Sour Kraut’, and especially during the longest track on the album ‘West Nile Curiosity’. ‘Purveyors’ is probably the most laid back of the three albums here, ideal for just kicking back and letting everything flow into you.
The run up to the band’s seventh LP, ‘Scrappy Little Jaw’ released in 2013, saw band co-founder, Mark McIntyre leave the group. This, and a number of other personnel changes, coincided with a different approach to recording, with tracks being worked up from scratch in the studio, using overdubs for the first time. This change in approach can be heard in the sound which is more punchy and heavier, with no track straying over seven minutes, the tracks on this album in particular just get better with ever listen, it’s a total monster of an album!
For me this and ‘Purveyors’ provide excellent counterpoints to each other, showcasing different aspects of what the band are all about.
‘Pathfinder’ is probably the best known of the three albums on offer here, and was the one that started to get the band a reputation outside of Canada. The first 100 pressing of this album, like the others released on Westhaver’s ‘Birdman Sound’ label (it’s also a shop in Ottawa), quickly sold out and a second pressing was made available in Europe through Cardinal Fuzz. The album itself, the band’s eighth, was released in 2014 and represented a return to a more improvised process, although there is certainly evidence of ‘Scrappy Little Jaw’ more considered approach too. There are also more shorter tracks on this album, with a trio of them clocking in around the three minute mark; all of which leave you wanting more.
Put together these three albums make up what is a brilliant box set. Effectively recorded over around four years it provides a not only a snapshot of how the band have developed over that time, but also how different approaches to recording have resulted in albums with very different feels. Although the overall philosophy of the group of playing great music with a fuck you attitude to the max comes through again and again, like a sacred thread holding it all together.
This box set is for people who like psych music, who like rock ‘n’ roll, and who like their music raw and unadulterated; in its entirety it’s a sonic tour de force that you will never tire of listening to and just want to play again and again. If that wasn’t enough Chris Hardman’s re-mastering of these albums takes them to another level, meaning that those lucky enough to own these albums already may just want to check them out again.
From the Cardinal Fuzz press release:
Cardinal Fuzz have been given access to TBWNIAS’s archive and are bringing you three of their best, which were only previously available as short run private pressings of 100 on their own Birdman Sound Label.
Housed in a foil stamped presentation box containing an 8 page A4 risographed hand stamped editon biographical document, a double sided A4 colour insert and the three albums TBWNIS Vs. THE PURVEYORS OF CONSPICIOUS AUTHENTICITY, SCRAPPY LIITTLE JAW and PATHFINDER (all in spined sleeves and containing download codes).
This me capsule is the perfect chance to get up to speed with these legends-in-the-making’s back catalogue.
The box set is limited to 148 copies worldwide. Each album will be available individually in limited quantities.
Pre-orders are now available from here.
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