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Really quick spins: Garage rock edition with John Wesley Coleman, Limes, Spider Bags, Last Year's Men and the Parting Gifts

By David Malitz

By David Malitz

Garage rock bands. How can you tell one from another? Some stomping rhythms, some messy power chords, a nod to the “Nuggets” box set -- if you’ve heard one, you’ve heard ‘em all, right? Not always. Here are five garage-inspired bands with recent releases that succeed in forging their own sound.

John Wesley Coleman, “Bad Lady Goes to Jail”
The word "ragged" could be used to describe all of these bands but don’t for a second think that means "careless." Coleman is a gifted songwriter whose songs have a ramshackle feel that suit them well. The hooks are never lost, but a sense of claustrophobia and general battiness remains as Coleman sings about a bizarre array of topics -- the lousy driving of Christians, cops hitting him on the head, the joys of playing basketball -- and still manages to find moments of clarity.

John Wesley Coleman - “Bad Lady Goes to Jail”

Spider Bags - “Take It Easy Tonight,” “Dog in the Snow,” “Teenage Eyes” (various 7”s)

Last year’s glorious country-rock bummer “Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Crueler World” ranked as my No. 3 album of 2009. But instead of delivering a proper full-length follow up, Spider Bags have given us a handful of 7”s that further prove the band’s greatness in bite-size samples. In talking with fellow superfan Patrick Stickles from Titus Andronicus, we determined that this is a band of naturals -- they exist to churn out songs that are the soundtrack to a life’s worth of regrets. And if they do so in obscurity, it's everyone else's loss.

Spider Bags - “Take It Easy Tonite”

Limes, “Rhinestone River”

Limes is the one-man project of Memphis’s Shawn Cripps, who completes a sort of outsider-garage triangle with Coleman and Spider Bags. (It’s a very obtuse, scalene triangle.) His songs are more rickety than rocking, bluesy front-porch shuffles that have more in common with the deranged roots-punk of the Gibson Bros. than most amped-up garage acts. His monotone drawl is the perfect fit for these songs; both words and guitar leads trickle out slowly and casually.

The Limes - “Sounds LIke a Shimmy”

Last Year’s Men, “Sunny Down Snuff”

They are more boys than men, which is plenty apparent on this spunky 10-song debut. There’s a world-weariness to the previously mentioned bands' material that’s almost entirely absent on this album -- as well it should be for a trio of kids who can’t all yet drink legally. The razor-sharp power-pop of the late, great Exploding Hearts is clearly an influence on Last Year's Men as the band zips through songs about teenage problems. But even when singer Ben Carr seems down, there’s an optimism and energy that helps separate his band from its peers.

Last Yeat’s Men - “Paralyze”

The Parting Gifts, “Strychnine Dandelion”

Greg Cartwright is a garage rock industry unto himself, an underground icon who's been cranking out hard-charging romps for two decades with bands such as the Oblivians, the Reigning Sound and the Compulsive Gamblers. His new band is a collaboration with Coco Hames of the Ettes and it showcases his classic pop songwriting acumen. There are moments when he revs up and lets loose with a throaty growl, but there’s as much jangle as rumble. It allows you to appreciate the craft instead of being bowled over by the thunder.

The Parting Gifts - “Keep Walkin’”

By David Malitz  | November 3, 2010; 2:35 PM ET
Categories:  Really quick spins  | Tags:  John Wesley Coleman, Last Year's Men, Limes, Spider Bags, The Parting Gifts  
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