Posts Tagged ‘Kurt Bloch’

The first releases from Filthy Friends, the scorchingly melodic rock group whose membership consists of some of the most original musical voices of the past three decades, came as a small, delightful shock to the system. Not only because of the names associated with the project, including Sleater-Kinney co-founder Corin Tucker, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and indie stalwarts Scott McCaughey and Kurt Bloch, but also because of how ably they were able to mesh their individual sounds into a crackling melodic whole on debut album Invitation.

Now, with their follow-up—Emerald Valley, out on Kill Rock Stars on May 3rd—the Friends have proven their collective mettle, crafting a thematic suite of songs that finds the quintet digging deeper into their bag of musical tricks and giving Tucker room to rage about and mourn the fate of our planet and the people who inhabit it.

The core idea came from a demo Buck shared with Tucker for a grinding blues song that eventually turned into this new album’s title track. The minute she heard it, Tucker says, it sparked something within her: “I had this long poem growing in my brain,” she says. “It turned into a sort of manifesto about the kind of place we are at as a country but also as a region. Just taking stock of where we’re at and feeling like I can’t believe we let things get this bad.”

While Emerald Valley starts off with idyllic imagery (“Rolling fields, they speak your name/vibrant green is here again”), the album and its title track slowly reveal the ugly underneath, with human arrogance and hubris hurting the Earth and the people who take on “backbreaking work for little pay.”

From there, the Friends address growing concerns over oil production and distribution (“Pipeline”), gentrification and income inequality within the band’s hometown of Portland, Oregon (“One Flew East”), and taking on the voice of the desperate souls that are getting crushed under the wheels of capitalism (“Last Chance County”). The band paints these themes with many different shades of the rock palette, nestling a snapping punk tune between a bit of jangly pop and an almost-shoegaze ballad, with stops along the way for songs that burn as hot and move as slow as lava and tunes that stay steady and fast as a rocket launch.

Emerald Valley is also a testament the indefatigable spirit of the Filthy Friends themselves. Scott McCaughey bounced back from a stroke he suffered in late 2017, which curtailed the band’s tour plans and is playing with more fire than ever. As well, Corin Tucker and Peter Buck were able to devise some amazing work even as their creative energies were being pulled toward other projects like Arthur Buck and Sleater-Kinney. Too, the band was able to bring a new member into the fold with drummer Linda Pitmon coming on board to replace Bill Rieflin without losing an ounce of their power.

We could all take a lesson from Filthy Friends. As proven by Emerald Valley, when a group of like-minded people gather their individual strengths together and point them toward a singular goal, there’s no telling how powerful they can become and what an impact they can make on the world at large.

Released May 3rd, 2019

Kill Rock Stars: Filthy Friends: 05/27/2017, SE Portland, OR

Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker and R.E.M.‘s Peter Buck are in a new band called Filthy Friends. Listen to “The Arrival”, the new single from their debut, Invitation. The LP is out August 25th.

Filthy Friends is the sound of music being made free of expectations, free of fear for how it will be received, free of any and all bullshit that has become part of the modern music industry. Filthy Friends is the product of like minded individuals with nothing to prove getting together and making a heroic racket together that finds space for their many influences and interests.

The band is lucky in that regard. Their legacies in the music world are comfortably secured. Lead singer CCorin Tucker has left an indelible mark on the punk scene through her memberships in Sleater-Kinney and Heavens to Betsy. Guitarist Kurt Bloch has logged a lot of hours as the leader of The Fastbacks, as well as serving as a producer/mentor for up and coming Seattle rock groups. Drummer Bill Rieflin has a fine day job as one of the drummers in King Crimson. Bassist Scott McCaughey keeps plenty busy doing studio work and mining the power pop underground with his long-running band the Young Fresh Fellows. As for the other guitarist Peter Buck…if you’re unfamiliar with him, you haven’t been paying attention to the last 30 years of alternative/college/indie rock.

So far, the world has gotten to know Filthy Friends through a nicely scattershot batch of songs: “Despierata,” their entry into the anti-Trump project 30 Songs For 30 Days and the 2017 Record Store Day release featuring their original “Any Kind of Crowd” and a sinister take on Roxy Music’s “Editions of You.” Now this fierce collective is fanning the flames even hotter with the release of their debut full-length Invitation. Yes, it does slip their already released tracks into the mix, but what surrounds those tunes is oh so much more than you could have ever asked for.

The 12-song collection works through a flurry of different moods and styles, genre exercises and joyous experiments. The intricate guitar knots and blasts of bubblegum pop of Buck’s beloved Television are all over the herky-jerky “Windmill.” A mashup of ‘60s downer vibes and rootsy rumblings makes up the marvelous “Second Life” whereas “Come Back Shelley” is all swagger and glitz in the style of a lost glam rock 45. There ain’t nothing this band can’t do with the wet clay of rock music and what they sculpt out of it is pure art.

If you can sense an ease with the way these songs and this band got together that isn’t a mistake. The five Filthy Friends have gotten to know each other well, lo these past few decades. Bloch and McCaughey are both longstanding members of the Young Fresh Fellows. Rieflin and McCaughey were both unofficial members of R.E.M. during the band’s post-Bill Berry years. If that weren’t enough Buck, Rieflin, and McCaughey are also members of the Minus 5 and the Venus 3, bands that have made fantastic records on their own and with venerated singer-songwriters like John Wesley Harding, Alejandro Escovedo and Robyn Hitchcock. With all of them living and working in the Pacific NW, they’ve all gotten to know and love the work that Tucker has done in Sleater-Kinney and with her solo ventures.

The bottom line is that this is a group of musical lifers who, after 30+ years of playing shows both big and small, still get a visceral thrill out of recording a great song or standing on stage. They’d be doing it with the same enthusiasm and authority if they had an audience of 5 or 5,000. Don’t ask much more of them beyond that. We demand far too much from the artists we love. Best to let these kids do what they wanna do and just enjoy rolling around in the muck with them whenever we get their invitation

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