Buffalo holds a special place, alongside Detroit, Cleveland, and dozens of other new, little Ohio/Penn/Mich ghost towns, in the corridor of old American industrial powerhouses of some bygone, pre-Reagan Steel Age. The city was once, along with so many other Rust Belt enclaves, a beacon of prideful and turgid industriousness. But then everyone got laid off. And as everyone got laid off, some cranking rock and roll bands scored the Constellation of Life in the Steel Belt. For whatever reason, the domestic economy collapsed, and that Belt began to oxidize and decay. And now, some twenty or thirty years later, a handful of Upstate kids have begun to hammer out cranking rock and roll in the vein of what their dads presumably cranked on their way to work, the day or days leading up to that sad, sad lay-off.
Grimace, Handsome Jack, Chylde, The Found, Thrill Me!, Buffalo Killers, Family Township. A ton of nearby bands have treaded this throwback corridor, to varying degrees of response for years. But really, until now, no one has consolidated so many threads of Good-Ol-Boys, classic rock, so much as the quartet, Cosmic Shakedown, and not so comprehensively as on their debut LP, Fake American Dream (released on vinyl this week - so so so appropriately).
Fake American Dream is a Who's Who of homages. It's a team of four Good-Ol-Dudes blasting Good-Ol-Rock-and-Roll out of retro amps, scoring a Constellation of Cranking-Rock. It's also the debut record from Cosmic Shakedown, a band I was once wary of, but now, given the work they've put into constant gigging, solidifying their sound, and given the luxury of being able to hear it on vinyl, have to humbly hand it to. And, along with the recent departure of White Bison and The Found from our little scene, I'd welcomingly welcome the Good-Ol Shakedown Boys as heirs to our Rust Belt Blues Throne.
In FAD, every divergent thread of Rust Belt Blues is represented. To hear them shift from one song to another is to lift the needle off Wishbone Ash and line up some Molly Hatchet. Or to fastforward from Blue Cheer to Alice In Chains. From the sampled opening of "The Next F.A.D." to the Drinking Game Dare of “All Too Much,” FAD is an indelibly “Buffalo” recording.
There's a couple throw-aways: “Wore Fair” is some semi-cheesy 12-bar-leaning boogie, rife with silly “take me home” lyrics. And “Dizzease” sprawls from Patton-inspired to Portrait of an American Family-sounding (and I'm simply not sure if it's okay to be “okay” with that comparison, though I don't mean it in a bad way), especially where the voice and drums are concerned. That said, Cosmic Shakedown manage to ameliorate upon an extensive field of influences, and even throw-aways like these make me crave seeing the band live again, very soon.
And sometimes, more often than not: the record gets absolutely awesome. The first side closes with the incendiarily paired “Alibi/ High Noon.” “Alibi” starts with some sparse guitar jangling. A minute or so in, the rhythm kick up a notch or two, and before you know it, guitarists Josh Gartley and Tony Nash are interweaving one of the coolest dual-licks to hit any of our ears in some time. And when Gartley jumps in with the early refrain, “Where has all that good old rock and roll gone?” all of a sudden, the whole cranking-rock-on-your-way-to-a-1970s-layoff I opened with makes too much frustrating, frustrating sense.
And then the driving, pained “High Noon.” And then you flip the record for the Southern-influenced “Rusty Tracks,” and on into some sturdy good times.
It is a good time. I hope you pick up Fake American Dream. And on vinyl.