Monday, July 18th, 2011
Shadow, Follow Me
Review of Centro-Matic’s Candidate Waltz
Matt PenceConsistency is a fine trait for an artist to possess; so is prolificity. And yet possessing both in great measure isn’t always a formula for greatness as there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Consider Denton, Texas’ Centro-Matic – I discovered them circa 2004’s Love You Just The Same and instantly fell for its ragged and anthemic rock, proceeding pretty much immediately to search out most of their back catalog as one did back in the day when instantly downloading everything wasn’t quite as easy as it is now. There was a good long while that Will Johnson’s rasp was a fixture in my ears.
But keeping up with Johnson’s post Love You releases in his various guises – there was Centro-Matic, South San Gabriel for his gentler songs and his own name for compositions that somehow didn’t fit either – for whatever reason didn’t yield the same rewards and by the time the project-crossing Centro/San Gabriel double set Dual Hawks was released in 2008, my ability to distinguish one record from the last had gotten rather blurry. Each was sure to contain a solid batch of songs but when you’re staring at a dozen CD spines trying to decide which one to listen to, the level playing field can be a bit maddening (and for the record, Love You Just The Same would usually get the nod).
All that said, the latest Centro-Matic album Candidate Waltz sets itself apart from its peers from note one by opening not with a thickly distorted guitar chord or dry, declarative drum hit but an insistent motorik pulse the likes of which I certainly never thought I’d hear on a Centro-Matic record. Granted, the guitar riff and Johnson’s distinctive vocals follow close behind, but already the tenth Centro-Matic album has already made a statement that it’s not going to be business as usual. They’re still in the same business, make no mistake, but there’s a leanness and hunger in Candidate Waltz that I certainly haven’t heard in the last few records. Though uncharacteristically brief with its 32-minute running time, each of Waltz‘s nine songs are standouts in their own way, possessing a distinct personality that makes it the most engaging and satisfying release from any of Johnson’s projects in some time. And the best part is, having had Candidate Waltz on repeat for the last few weeks has made me hungry to re-explore their other records… and it turns out I’ve got a tonne of them.
Pitchfork reports that Drive-By Truckers will have their eleven-year, nine-album legacy condensed down into 16 tracks on the forthcoming compilation Ugly Buildings, Whores & Politicians: Greatest Hits 1998-2009, due out August 2.
Stereogum talks influences with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, because the contents of their record collections is so inscrutable based on the music they make. They play an in-store at Sonic Boom on August 1 and a show at The Opera House on August 2.