Great songs: Every record should have one, the kind of anthem that makes you immediately want to roll down the car windows and sing along or jump up and down in your bedroom while riffing madly on your air guitar -- or at least cue up again over and over. Think "Shake Some Action," "Going Down to Liverpool," "Smells Like Teen Spirit," etc. Even the shittiest records usually muster at least one poot of virtuosity: Don Henley had Building the Perfect Beast's "The Boys of Summer," Ministry had Psalm 69's "Jesus Built My Hot Rod," and Sugar Ray had . . . er, umm . . .
Alan Charing, who used to go by the name of the Alan Charing Controversy and now chases his muse under the quartet moniker A.C. Cotton, has a budding classic on his second record (fourth, if you count a pair of EPs). "Great Divide" doesn't necessarily have a direct stylistic connection to the similarly titled Band tune, but in its purebred Americana feel, there's a definite spiritual link. It brims with barely restrained, feedback-tinged, Plimsouls chordal assault and an incessant Bo Diddley jungle-throb beat, plus Dylanesque lyrics with double meanings that can apply to personal relationships and serve as social commentary (sample: "I got spies/Enemy lines/They let me know what to expect/There's a ringing/In my ear/Can't feel what you don't respect"). All sung in an edgy-passionate, half-desperado nasal drawl that makes Charing sound like a cross among Paul Westerberg, David Lowery and Alejandro Escovedo.
And if that were the lone contribution that ACC made to rock's rich tapestry, well, suffice to say that lesser one-hit wonders have littered rock's roadkill highway over the years, too. But this is about the least shitty record you'll hear all year. There's plenty more in the grooves, tuneful and varied. ACC touches down below the Mason-Dixon line (the ringing, Georgia Satellites-like "A Lot of Water"; the Jason and the Scorchers-styled thrashabilly thumper "Alright for Audrey"), traipses across to the Southwest for some smoldering, edgy desert rock ("Real Damn Shame"), even ventures into Bakersfield toting some boozy, twang-and-steel country honk ("Lucky Thirteen"). Throughout, a '70s vibe is pervasive, with some unapologetic nods to classic rock like the Eagles (pre-Henley solo era, natch), Springsteen and Tom Petty. That, perhaps, may be why some of Charing's tunes have surfaced in such unlikely mainstream venues as NBC's Providence and MTV's The Real World and Undressed.
Still, A.C. Cotton sounds as refreshingly vital as its chosen moniker. One of Charing's more memorably offbeat lyrics reads, "I'm gonna change my name to Cotton/And move down to the South." Damn. Sounds like good advice to this boho. Where's my suitcase?
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