Gallon Drunk – The Road Gets Darker From Here

January 01, 1970

(Clouds Hill)


It’s been a while since the British sleazemeisters in Gallon
Drunk left the bar long enough to grace us with their presence, but The Road Gets Darker From Here serves
notice that they’re back, baby, and better than ever. As might be expected from
a band approaching the (gulp) quarter-century mark, James Johnston and crew
have acquired some maturity in their middle years, a certain sense of
restraint. (Maybe Johnston’s
concurrent service to German avant-garde icon Faust satisfies his noise-rock
jones.) But that means the wild-eyed noiseabilly mania of old is tempered, not
tamed – Johnston
is as apt to let actual melodies
carry his tales of despair and debauchery as chaos and machismo.


The brooding “Killing Time” seethes its way through the dark
instead of screaming, at least until Terry Edwards’ sax squalls threaten to
explode. “A Thousand Years” reveals a straightforward folk rock tune under its
layer of grime, while “Big Breakdown” essays the blues in the style of, say,
Tom Waits. The thumping “You Made Me” goes straight for the hook, even as it
drives a spike into your heart, while “Stuck in My Head” evinces the kind of
smoky ballad that usually evokes dropped panties and uncomfortable shivers in
equal measure. Then there’s the LP-closing “The Perfect Dancer,” a flowing
slice of feedback-driven psychedelia that caps the bottle and cleanses the
palette at the same time.


Fear not, traditionalists – there’s still plenty of grit to
go ‘round, from the sleazy grind of “I Just Can’t Help But Stare” and the red-eyed
freakout of “Hanging On” to the general air of barely-suppressed violence that
suffuses every track. The band may have matured, but it hasn’t softened. The Road Gets Darker From Here simply
scowls as much as roars, and that just makes Gallon Drunk’s mixed messages of
sin and salvation that much more appallingly effective.


Note: seek out the 7-inch version of “A Thousand Years” for
the sublime B-side “Close the Blinds.”


Made Me,” “A Thousand Years,” “Killing Time” MICHAEL TOLAND


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