GARCIA PEOPLES – ” Dodging Dues “

Posted: January 14, 2022 in MUSIC

Though they’ve honed in some of their jam band tendencies, the New Jersey psychedelic rockers are no less compelling on their fifth LP. In our lead review of ‘Dodging Dues’, we talk of Black Sabbath’s locked grooves, economy over excess, why glam riffs are so good, and shapeshifting six-string workouts.

Garcia Peoples are a Brooklyn-based sextet who fuse the chunky riffage of Sabbath with a bluesy sprawl that’s not too far away from Ryley Walker’s shapeshifting six-string workouts. 

Tight structures are the MVP on the band’s fifth album ‘Dodging Dues’. They give these songs a spine, a kind of sonic stanchion that regiments some of Garcia Peoples’ psychy indulgence (there’s a keyhole graphic on the album cover – go figure). The time signature shift on ‘Here We Are’ rescues a meandering waltz. On ace opener ‘False Opener’ the guitar noodling is held in check by the steady loping rhythm, with bass and drums seeming to say “thus far and no further”. 

Most of these tracks are four minutes long. This brevity is so much more impactful than longer songs which might have made some of the instrumentals lose their bite. Garcia Peoples are known for their extended jams and improvisational chops, so it’s nice to hear them favour economy over excess.

There’s a definite homage to Black Sabbath in the way guitars and basses are liable to lock into step, playing the same monolithic segments – like the triumphant, chiming descending riff in ‘Fill Your Cup’ for instance. It’s these moments where Garcia Peoples really shine. At their best, the glistening riffage and stomping rhythms approach T Rex.

There are some stodgy lyrical turns on this LP. Let’s make no bones about it. Kicking off an album with “so tired of pretending” is like playing the Barnes opening in chess (pawn to f3 – famously very shit). We get a few moments of oil lamp psych nonsense (clocked the keyhole graphic on the album cover yet?) about “maggots into flies” and “roses turning to stone” that’s probs best left alone. 

But there are also moments which I love when the band throw caution to the wind and holler “shitshow” or “fare thee well oh troubled mind”. Sure, Garcia People might engage in freewheeling, devil-may-care, in-the-morning-I’ll-be-gone, life-on-the-road lyrical themes, but why the hell not? It’s their album not mine.

On ‘Dodging Dues’ there seems to be this constant tension between the bluesy, bar-room Garcia Peoples who sing lyrics like “so tired of pretending” and the Thin Lizzy-esque Garcia Peoples who sing lyrics like “fare thee well oh troubled mind” over glammy stompers. Basically these songs are always ready to turn on a sixpence – either into Crazy Horse or Queen. 

Yes that’s right, I said Queen. Garcia Peoples can sometimes sound like Queen. The unadorned distorted guitars that crop up here and there on ‘Dodging Dues’ are redolent of Brian May’s squelchy tone, while the harmonies on ‘Tough Freaks’ and ‘False Company’ also bear some resemblance to Freddie and the boys’ legendary vocal stack. These vocal exultations almost verge on gospel at some points, albeit sung by a choir that worships at the altar of Levi jeans and whatever a “Stratocaster” is.  

I’ve been listening to Skee Mask’s ‘Pool’ on repeat this week. As such, hearing Garcia People’s creamy guitar solos and organic instrumentation has been balm to the soul (‘Pool’ is about as organic as an Apple Mac). ‘Dodging Dues’ is a short, sweet slice of Real Music – a thirty-four minute escape hatch from this age of foolishness and winter of despair. A few iffy lyrics though.

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