Puerto Muerto – Drumming for Pistols

January 01, 1970





With a record as quixotic as Drumming for Pistols, it’s hard to pin down the precise moment this
Chicago-based married duo makes its Great Leap Forward, but by the time it has
cast 13 strange and different spells, you just know it’s happened.


Maybe it’s during the second cut, the dirty-gospel flavored rocker
“Tamar,” when the classically trained mezzo-soprano Christa Meyer belts out the
freighted chorus “Oh, Daddy, oh, Daddy, why’d you do those things to me?” and
sends a shiver of pleasure and discomfort down your spine. Or maybe it happens
during the Werner Herzog-inspired chamber piece, “The Bell Ringer,” when the handbells
and strings (courtesy Bright Eyes/Head of Femur contributor Tiffany Kowalski) augment
a wistful Eastern European theme perfectly suited to Meyer’s operatic voice. Perhaps
it’s the new-and-improved garage-rock stomper “Tanze,” in which Meyer’s wicked
bilingual delivery recalls Thee Headcoatees, or the disorienting swirl of the
carnival waltz “Beautiful Women With Shining Black Hair.” Other candidates
could include hubbie Tim Kelley’s turns on “Hurting Now,” a simple
piano-and-guitar sad-ballad reminiscent of Jon Langford’s mellower Mekons fare,
and the organ-washed weeper “Settle Down Belinda,” which sounds like Richard
Hawley on a Southwestern bender.


But just when you think any one of these could be The
Moment, the duo closes with a gorgeous one-two punch. First, the ain’t-no-redemption
song “Seven Sinners,” in which Meyer’s doo-wop “shoop-de-doos” give Kelley’s
guitar and traditional-sounding verses a surreal, David Lynch twist. Then comes
the coda, the Spanish guitar-flavored “Goodbye to the End,” which captures the
band’s narrative sophistication in cinematic fashion when Meyer sings, “And the
drums will play/A tune like madness/The streets are dark now/the asphalt’s
warm/we are walking the streets until midnight/we are craving a life undone.”


Early Puerto Muerto records tended to ramble all over the
map, a lack of focus highlighting the band’s shortcomings as often as their
strengths, and there are a couple of over-reaches here, especially the
prog-rock misstep “Arcadia.” But with time, they’ve zeroed in on what works
best for them, and made a sentiment like “undone” mostly a narrative conceit


Standout Tracks: “Seven Sinners” “Tamar” “Settle Down Belinda” JOHN SCHACHT


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