Ace new single from the ever-brilliant Missouri band.
BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS
Where shall I begin with Scruffy and the Janitors. For the better part of seven years, I’ve followed their career, their progression from lovers of all things Jack White, Cage the Elephant and Nirvana; blending modern electric blues with garage and straight-ahead rock n roll, a mix that was, at times, repetitive but almost always interesting. From the home recorded “Pino” through 2017’s superb “Modeling is Hard,” Scruffy have shown that, not only are they musicians of a high caliber, they are a unit, a thre- man strike force ready to take on any band, any stage. They are a band capable of just about anything; opening their minds to new concepts and styles, going from the a band that knew their limitations to a trio that refuses to have limitations, opening their minds to obscure garage rock like The Leaves and The Sonics to the full on mad hatter psychedelia of Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd and the great Captain Beefheart.
That brings us to their new single “Keepers of the Underdark Volume 1: What Are You Running From?” the first in a series of horror-based singles (released on Friday the 13th) that sees the band trying something new and it mostly works. Steven Foster’s voice has never been so soulful and forlorn, soaked in echo and reverb as he sings of “going postal.” Foster’s bass lines are fat and steady, Trevin Newton’s drumming is confident and powerful as always while Teriq Newton’s guitar work rips through the night like a werewolf devouring its latest, hopeless victim, never letting go, choking the life from the listener and leaving him or her wanting more.
It’s easy to hear that Scruffy are trying something different, moving away from what they know to a song that would make HP Lovecraft proud, it’s subject matter and execution dark, the chorus is catchy and the solos are not overlong. Scruffy is a band on the verge of something great, ready to break out of the St. Joe bubble and take on the world. Though it’s not a masterwork by definition, what it is however, is a tight, driving tune, perfect for the season of the witch that bares repeating. Give “What Are You Running From?” a few spins and you’ll see what I mean, it’ll pin you down like a stake through the heart and force you to admit that Scruffy and the Janitors is one of the area’s best rock bands. They are seemingly unafraid to try new things, to destroy the box they created for themselves and run headlong into the unknown wilderness that is the world at large. Scruffy gives their fans a song to hold onto in trying times, times that show a new horror every time you turn on the television or read a newspaper, homelessness, mass shootings, unemployment, a less than competent President sitting in the big chair with his finger on the button.
These are dark times my friends and “What Are You Running From?” is the slice of escapism that we need right now. Scruffy, in their growth of nearly a decade together, have found the pocket, the nugget that should put them on the road to discovery, discovering who they are as musicians and as citizens of the wider world.
Is “What Are You Running From?” a commentary on the state of affairs that we find ourselves in, spinning our wheels as we wait for something new and terrible to happen? Who knows? Now’s the time boys, take your songs, take the talent that has been given to you and show the world that rock n roll is not dead, it was just hiding in the dark; ready for someone to shine a bright, white hot light on it once again. With “What Are You Running From?” it’s Scruffy that is holding the flashlight, piercing the shadowy world and signaling for a sign of relief.