Sometimes, it’s just knowing the right words to search for. In this case, my first attempt: “O’Brother” resulted in more hits involving a George Clooney movie than the Alternative Rock band from Atlanta Georgia. Then, after reading a quote that mentioned some wild YouTube videos of them playing with Manchester Orchestra, I got what I was looking for.
It turns out the two bands, which are both on Favorite Gentlemen Records, are somewhat incestuous. In that Andy Hull and Robert McDowell just co-produced O’Brother’s first full length LP: Garden Window, which just dropped last month to rave reviews. Based on some of the jam sessions I found online I can see why they work so well together, and why this record has been so well received. From the distortion driven opening note of the first song, “Malum” to the bouncy second song simply titled “Lo,” you can feel a heavy undercurrent. The third song, “Sputnik” shows how dramatic the band can be and gives you a hint of the experimental music that they have in store for you.
Starting with an antique radio effect on “Poison!” that’s quickly replaced by a mantra like expression of “It’s what I needed”. You might be surprised that the length of the song, which is seven minutes and 46 seconds, isn’t the longest track. That would go to one that’s almost twice as long, track 10: “Cleanse Me” that comes in at 13:59 and is reminiscent of a Sonic Youth distortion-fest. I like the next song on the record, “Lay Down,” but I really like the song that follows: “Easy Talk (Open Your Mouth).” It’s got a catchy beat and I like how they control the lengthy guitar sustains and weave them in and out without going overboard. About half way through, the song takes on a second life with another mantra like chorus that I found mesmerizing. I can only imagine what this would sound like live. If you’re as curious as I am, you’ll be glad to hear the band will be co-headlining with Junius at Bryan Street Tavern in Dallas on Saturday, March 10th.
You can tell the influence of 90’s bands like Radiohead, Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins is still alive and well. The band’s debut EP, In Comparison To Me showed promise but it wasn’t until their follow-up EP in 2009, The Death of Day that the band really started to click. That was when Tanner Merritt and Aaron Wamack joined the group. Both play guitar, but Tanner sings and Aaron is also a percussionist. Johnny Dang also plays guitar and his brother Anton plays bass. Michael Martens is the drummer that completes the band, and is well worth mentioning. As is the band’s ability to harmonize and create some very moody ambiances. Demonstrated by the record’s last track: “Last Breath”, which mixes haunting whispers with angelic background vocals. There are a lot of layers to this band’s music and you really have to invest the time to truly appreciate them. I for one am glad to see that Alternative Music is still producing such talented musicians. While the band’s name: “O’Brother” may be a bit cliché, I assure you, their music isn’t.