Buck Gooter could possibly be the most unusual band in history, certainly if you award such a distinction based on their cumulative sui generis accomplishments: The duo of vocalist/synthethist/percussionist Billy Brett and guitarist Terry Turtle are aged about three decades apart, making them look like a bizarre father-son outfit. They have constantly toured every year since they formed fourteen years ago with the likes of A Place To Bury Strangers, Guerrilla Toss, The Sediment Club, and ONO.
They’ve also released no less than eighteen albums in that span. The most recent of them, Finer Thorns (Ramp Local), further distinguishes the Harrisonburg, Virginia troupe from just about anyone else.
They call what they do “Primal Industrial Blues,” and that makes as much sense of the band’s sound as anything else. Brett’s warped electronics and staid, electronically-enhanced beats definitely add a regimented cadence to the album. Turtle’s minimalistic guitars, whether chaotic and loud or subdued and acoustic, have a bluesy foundation to them.
The press materials reference the likes of Trent Reznor and Iggy Pop as touchstones. Though that isn’t completely inaccurate, Alien Sex Fiend seems to be the band’s most direct ancestors. Just like the 80s proto-death-rockers, Buck Gooter makes use of oddball samples; looped, dark psychedelics, and set it all to a nice beat perfect for stomping around in dark, smoky, goth bars.
“Land of the Dead” is a pick hit, all bombastic percussion and angular, funky, staccato riffs. “We’re all rotting in the land of the dead,” Brett screams. “Talking ‘bout home, now, talking ‘bout home.” It might be an allusion to our modern world, but it’s perfectly fine to leave all that philosophizing to Descartes and traipse around the club after quaffing absinthe. Pretty sure Buck Gooter is fine either way.
Throughout the confounding record, a claustrophobic feel is present: the hammering, industrial skronk of “Pastoralists,” “Science is a Rascal,” which rekindles the quirky, theatrical pop of Devo or Oingo Boingo, the dark ode to their favorite mephitidae mammal “Skunks Are Cool,” and “The Fig Wasp,” which samples clinical-yet-brutal mating rituals of the winged insect amongst eerie drone. It’s psychedelia gone black and white that feels retro and modern at the same time.
The decided pop sensibility apparent no matter how weird Finer Thorns gets is what makes the album so indelible. One thing’s for sure: nobody will dance to it quite the same way.