Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s | Rot Gut, Domestic (Mariel Recording Co.)

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rotgut margotThe less cheeky and grittier sound hits right from the start, with a big wall of sound.

 

Richard Edwards, front man and ringleader, wrote this album over 26 days while enduring chronic stomach pain. His torment can be heard throughout, but this guitar-driven album is precisely where Margot has been headed since their last release. Before making Buzzard, Edwards dissolved the eight-piece band—only keeping two of the originals on board—to form a six piece band. This meant that the horn section and extra percussion that played a huge part in their music—specifically their debut album, The Dust of Retreat—was abandoned. The beauty of their unique, dream-chamber pop sound is what originally gained their following; they somehow still hone their unique sound on Rot Gut; it’s just buried beneath reverb and vast soundscapes.

The less cheeky and grittier sound hits right from the start, with a big wall of sound in “Disease Free and Tobacco Free.” More accessible and straightforward, but in the same fuzzy fashion, is the next track, “Books about Trains.” It starts with a distant howl over an ominous guitar riff that will eventually gain momentum and turn into an impressively messy, thrashing solo. “Shannon” is a gloomy song about the apprehension of being friends with someone while still in love after an ended relationship. Eerily, a girl’s laughter—probably Shannon’s—can be heard while Edwards croons, “I love you still/ Always will.” The end of the uneasy song ends with the singer deciding to just go get drunk.

The single “Prozac Rock,” much like “Shannon,” has a boozy protagonist, this time yearning to see a lost lover, but it seems he might be too self-medicated to be worth catching up with. The guitars drive steadily forward into a handful of great hooks, and Edwards’ high register wail of the title is chilling and troubled. “A JournalistFallsin Love” is about a doomed love with a serial killer on death row. The acoustic song is in the same vein of the simple beauty of “Jen is Bringin’ the Drugs” from The Dust of the Retreat. The lyrics are disturbing yet sweet, especially when the killer is quoted: “I know I’ve killed a few/ But none of those women were you.” Following is a second acoustic song, “Frank Left”; its tender keyboard and quick electric guitar line add to the constant, lonely, country-western feel. The subtle music fits perfectly with the lyrics of abandonment.

“Fisher of Men” is a screeching song that strongly contrasts the previous acoustic tracks that leads into “Arvydas Sabonis,” a song penned for the retired Portland Trailblazer player of the same name. It’s definitely in Margot’s uniqueness to make this song, but the cleverness of the idea doesn’t make up for the sludgy sound. The most charming song on the album, “Coonskin Cap,” utilizes every instrument to fill in each possible opening, weaving together a mellow and precious four minutes. The meticulousness of the music pays off dearly when the electric guitar appears halfway through, playing loudly but gently for about 20 seconds, then dropping off, never to be heard again. Then Edwards softly sings over a barely audible acoustic guitar until the bass starts up again and brings all but the electric into a grand closing.

“Ludlow Junk Hustle” approaches paranoia in a loose, quirky style with a strikingly vivid chorus. Rot Gut’s last two songs, “The Devil” and “Christ,” were written back to back. Both of them are filled with dread; the former is boisterous with its hauntingly vicious guitars, and the latter is more down and out, sung over a slow piano and the occasional bells.

Rot Gut, Domestic hones layers of different sounds within other sounds. Margot began showing off their edgier and harder side with Buzzard, but they have come closer to mastering their more recent sound here. Fans of the old Margot lineup might initially be reluctant to delve into this heavier set of songs, but their undeniably original sensibilities are scattered and buried close to the surface. B+ | Alex Schreiber

RIYL: Neutral Milk Hotel, The Pixies, Pavement, Brand New, Wes Anderson films

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