Music News

Baptist Generals

It's hard not to giggle a little bit at the end of "Ay Distress," the opening track from the Baptist Generals' No Silver/No Gold. After a perfectly haunting performance of the slow, spare tune, someone's cell phone rings in the garage-studio. With the spell broken and a perfect take of the song ruined, singer Chris Flemmons goes apeshit, hitting things and swearing emphatically. His bandmates try to calm him, but he will not be subdued.

The moment perfectly articulates the Baptist Generals' volatile approach: Just when you're vulnerable to the music that's speaking to the rawest part of you, it gets aggressive and makes you damned uncomfortable. This is music that punches you in the gullet, steals your lunch money, then sobs an apology to you later.

The Denton, Texas, four-piece crafts a purely organic sound that is confrontational in some places (Jeff Helland makes the guitarrón one of the most intimidating instruments ever on "Alcohol") and wearily hopeful in others. For example, on "Feds on the Highway," Flemmons implores, "Don't hold inside your heart the things that trouble you." The writing on No Silver, No Gold makes it clear that Flemmons is without a doubt a tortured soul; one imagines that his alone time is hellish at best, and this is translated beautifully into the music. Throughout the record, the listener is taken from one emotional extreme to the other, from calming serenity to raging aggression, much like spending an evening with your most dramatic drinking buddy and watching him go from cheery to belligerent to weepy and, finally, barely conscious. It's a wild ride, but hugely enjoyable.

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Melanie Haupt