Brimstone Howl – Big Deal…What’s He Done Lately? (Alive Records)

Omaha’s greatest rock’n’roll band are back with their fourth album, and this time the boys have even written liner notes that have more or less done my job for me:

“Some may think that We Came In Peace  (their 2008 album) was the sound of us maturing and really finding our thing. If that’s the case, this album is a major episode of regression. Ha ha!”

They’re not wrong. We Came In Peace really was a major leap forward in terms of songwriting and recording (thanks in no small part to Jim Diamond’s production), and instead of building off it, Brimstone Howl seem to have retreated from it. Big Deal. What’s He Done Lately? (taken from a great Johnny Ramone quote about Phil Spector) is good, but it’s marred by treble-heavy production that turns what used to be sharp, well-crafted attacks into a thrashy blur. Bad production or not, the band still smokes with razor sharp intensity throughout, marrying demon-preacher vocals a la Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis and Iggy Pop with ’76/’77-era white-hot punk aggression. Even if this is a case where a good album is a disappointment, I’ll still get plenty of spins from “Easter At The Lewises”, the wild rocker “Last Time” and “Suicide Blues”, an explosive track which cops a few moves from “I’m Waiting For The Man”. We Come In Peace is the best entry point for Brimstone Howl, but if you if you’ve already liked what you heard there, seek this album out for another reminder that good ol’ rock music is still alive and well.

Brimstone Howl – We Came In Peace (Alive Records)

I liked Brimstone Howl’s previous album, Guts of Steel, but I’m ready to declare my love for the band, thanks to We Came In Peace. The album taps directly into the rebellious pulse of 1950s rock’n’roll and follows it through 1960s beat bands, Detroit proto-punk and the early stages of punk rock. Most of these 15 songs are drenched in the same pools of sweat found on records by Johnny Burnette, The Cramps and Nuggets bands, but played at faster Ramones/Damned speeds. But don’t mistake this Nebraska four piece for a bunch of knuckle-dragging cavemen incapable anything besides thrashing out three chords. They can also concoct dark Velvet Underground/Jesus and Mary Chain-styled feedback ballads like “Easy To Dream”, kick up a voodoo-infused jungle-blues ruckus on “Obliterator” and dip into psychedelic space-rock on “Yr. Gonna Walk”, where the band sports the most reverb I’ve heard outside of Outrageous Cherry. No matter what the band does on a particular song they’re doing it in uniformly excellent fashion, with every instrument fully locked in and with typically wonderful production from Jim Diamond. This is going to easily find its way onto my Top Ten of 2008.