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Such road warrior stories wouldn't inspire most people to hop in a van and hit the highway, but the Loud Americans plan on stringing together a handful of West Coast dates shortly, now that they have some product to promote -- a self-titled, self-released andself-packaged album. Taking D.I.Y. to its logical extreme, they actually cut the covers by hand and stamped all the CDs themselves. "We've become scissor experts, although Marco had problems cutting," says Gonzales.
The Loud Americans are a curious clash of three generations. Holt, a veteran of the Phoenix music scene, is in his early 40s, Gonzales is in his late teens, while the twentysomething Bannister and Glickman fall somewhere in between. As the eldest, Holt isn't averse to using his seniority status to win arguments with the others. According to Glickman, Holt is frequently fond of reminding the band, "I was fucking before you guys were on Earth."
The age gap means influences reach as far back as the Clash and Gang of Four and move on up through Fugazi and Superchunk, Blonde Redhead and Built to Spill. Each member has turned the other guys on to his favorite band, but resistance rears its head on occasion. "Marco tried to get us to listen to the Goo Goo Dolls and Enya but we wouldn't go for it," teases Glickman.
The Clash and Gang of Four's influence certainly carries over to the band's signature anthemic choruses. And in the din of its live performances, it's easy to mistake the Loud Americans as a combo with a decidedly political agenda. However, closer scrutiny of songs like "Wind the People" and "Communications Major" reveal lyrics of a more personal and troubled nature.
"Yeah, but you forget, most of the lyrics from the Clash or the Gang of Four aren't political," says Holt, and he's right. As far back as the first Clash album there were songs about rubbers, youth centers and kids in love with rock 'n' roll. And Gang of Four did sing about sex on occasion -- it only sounded like they were yammering on about labor strikes.
"I don't know what Marco's singing most of the time and he doesn't answer our questions," says Glickman. "It wasn't until the recording of the CD that I could figure some of the lyrics out."
Holt puts his bandmates at ease telling them they won't have to make Parental Advisory stickers to paste on the homemade sleeves. "I don't think there's any message. I just try to be as cryptic as possible," says Holt, grinning. "The majority of the older stuff is about things that I've gone through, but I don't want to be explicit or too definitive. It's emotional and has meaning to me, but the last thing I want to do is to define it to somebody else and insist it's supposed to mean the same thing to them. They haven't gone through what I've gone through."
Not especially eager to dredge up his own sordid past to sell records, Holt reluctantly admits, "I had an extensive drug problem, and a lot of the album has to do with that and the way I am today. I started putting this band together after getting my shit out of pawn and buying things after being strung out on heroin for 11 years."
Technically, this Loud Americans debut represents the fourth attempt at getting this batch of songs down on tape. "The first sessions were recorded on an eight-track reel-to-reel that kept slowing down," says Glickman. "Then we scrapped the next attempt because it had our old bass player Jeff --a chronic booty shaker -- playing on it. He'd shake his butt too much at the crowd. I always associate that [recording] with him, so it got shelved."
Gonzales figured into Attempt Number Three and was the most eager to put something out. The young guitarist handles most of the onstage banter, but after a year of prefacing each song with the intro "we're working on a new CD," he just stopped mentioning it altogether.
For the fourth and final attempt, the band brought a fresh set of ears to the project. Jamal Ruhe, late of One, Sleepwalker and a dozen other bands, recorded and mixed the group on an ADAT, and the result is a splendid album just shy of 30 minutes. "I don't consider it an EP because most of my favorite albums were only 36 minutes long," maintains Holt.
Holt's soft-spoken vocals may get quashed in a live forum but command attention on the recording where they're submerged in the instrumental track similar to Bob Mould's mutterings on Hüsker Dü LPs. Take a song like "Communication Major" where Holt begins in the lower register like a man who doesn't want to call attention to himself ("I'm not going to say I love you, I'm not trying to say anything/It's just that I've been under a lot of pressure . . .") or take attention away from the churning guitars. At his angriest, the singer comes off like a guy who's mostly exasperated with himself.
While the album has its dense moments, it's when the band interlocks into a stripped-down groove that things really get exciting. Listen to "Oatmeal Cream Pie," where the dual guitars sound as if they're kicking off two different songs in the left and right channel until the rhythm section pulls both strands together. The Loud Americans' fretwork volleys between the intricate interplay of Television's Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd and the haphazard lead and rhythm separation Bob Stinson and Paul Westerberg gave the Replacements. The latter is especially evident on tunes like "Everything Broke" and "Sentimental Heart" -- both just one set of handclaps away from being pure pop.