Pierced Arrows – Descending Shadows

January 01, 1970





In July of 2006 I interviewed Fred and Toody Cole,
husband-and-wife team comprising two-thirds of Oregon garage legends Dead Moon. As we discussed
their long musical legacy – which in Fred’s case extended all the way back to
the mid-‘60s (one of his early outfits, the Lollipop Shoppe, was a regular
fixture on the Sunset Strip and charted with the classic garage anthem “You
Must Be A Witch”) – one subject that arose was Dead Moon’s longevity, which at
that point was nearing the 20 year mark for the Coles and drummer Andrew


“We decided a long time ago,” mused Toody, “that if any one
of us three is not replaceable, if that day comes, and God hope it won’t, then
that will be the end of Dead Moon. Maybe something else will come up down the
line, but it will be a different name.”


As it turned out, “that day” arrived far sooner than anyone
anticipated: barely six months later, and also on the heels of Sub Pop Records’
two-CD career overview Echoes of the Past,
Dead Moon announced they were breaking up. It was a development that caught
fans – many of whom, particularly Europeans, had developed an almost
Deadhead-like attachment to the trio – totally off guard.


Luckily the earth was set right on its axis once again in
mid-2007 when the Coles returned with a new drummer, Kelly Haliburton, and as pledged,
under a new name: Pierced Arrows. The resulting album, 2008’s Straight To the Heart (reviewed here),
essentially picked up where Dead Moon had left off (how could it not, what with
Fred’s signature vocal screech and malevolent style of fretwork), a gnarled
mélange of distorto blooze and punk-fueled garage. Wisely, the Coles and
Haliburton don’t fuck with the formula too much on Descending Shadows either; in a mere 11 tracks, the band plows
forth with such feral viscosity and velocity
that you’re left clutching your chest when the record’s done.


In classic Fred Cole form, the album opens with a
manifesto-like anthem, “This Is the Day,” a churning slab of sinewy guitars and
rhythm section thud that finds the singer bemoaning all the ugliness he’s seen
– and spawned – in the past and trying to find the inner strength to rise above
from this point onward: “If only I could change the way I’ve become through all
these years/ I wouldn’t be watching you holding back your tears.” The creepy,
noirish “Buried Alive” comes next, Fred chronicling a
modern-life-is-suffocating-me viewpoint via a science-gone-terribly-wrong
metaphor. That’s followed a few tracks later by the even more horrific
“Paranoia” that utilizes metronomic bass, abrasive, serrated swipes of guitar,
and appropriately unhinged lyric images of “creaking floors,” “evil in the
night” and “the sound of blades just before they carve.” And “On the Move”
finds the Coles, against a thick backdrop of dark riffage, swapping vocal lines
about an impending apocalypse (literal, mental or perhaps both) that’s
propelling the two protagonists to flee ahead of the coming storm.


Fred Cole has been compared in the past to Love’s Arthur
Lee, and sometimes to Roky Erickson as well, but on this album he sounds
uncannily like a cross between late vocal greats Bon Scott and Alex Harvey,
moaning and gurgling and blustering and spitting into the mic as if through
clenched teeth while reeling from a significant flesh wound. Animalistic, by
any measure. Too, like a radically minimalist AC/DC, the band locks into some
of the most primal grooves imaginable, Toody and Halliburton adopting a
no-frills approach that’s propulsive yet steady, and this economy of motion
additionally frees Fred to unleash a heady mixture of steel-lined riffs
alongside psychedelic sound effects. There’s even an unexpected foray into
British punk territory, “Zip My Lip,” that has Toody adopting a Johnny Rotten-like
sneer as Fred deploys proto-metal buzzsaw licks to great effect.


The net result is a set of tunes simultaneously spilling
forth on a chaotic veneer of sonics while remaining powerfully and purposefully
focused. As the saying goes, if you buy
just one garage album all year…


Standout Tracks: “Paranoia,”
“On the Move,” “Zip My Lip” FRED MILLS



Pierced Arrows at
BLURT: video for “Paranoia” is here.



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