Music News

Boilermaker

A name like "Boilermaker" prods the mad cows of journalistic comparison (he said, inscrutably); as soon as you've registered it, you start flipping through the mental file folder marked "Alcohol, metaphors regarding."

But consider the drink in question, that sickly-shaky shot wrapped in the comforting banality of domestic beer. The unforgiving ounce of 80-proof well liquor whose passage is dulled by the chaser swallow of whatever's on special. The boilermaker is a rainy-night concoction, selected in times of great personal stress by people who have found the inner resolve to say those three little words: Fuck this shit.

So when we start talking about how Boilermaker's music sounds like a hellish inner core, fuzzed over and muted by the comfortably familiar tones of guitar-centered indie rock, we're aware that we're taking what looks like an easy out. But the comparison in this case is so damned accurate, to let it pass without commentary would be deceptive.

Leucadia (named for the band's birth-town, half an hour north of San Diego) is a collection of cuts from Boilermaker's first three albums, bookended by two newly recorded songs. Those albums -- Watercourse, In Wallace's Shadow and Boilermaker -- span the years from 1994 to 1998, during which, drummer Timothy Semple reports, the band "toured extensively, finding new inspiration in others' scenes. . . . out in middle America, we found bands that were experimenting with the same sounds."

Semple calls those sounds "emo," but the music on Leucadia bears a stronger lineal tie to indie-melodic bands like Wheat, Modest Mouse and even Everclear -- of this last, the slower tracks, certainly -- than it does to lo-fi representatives like Smog or Sebadoh. What's most interesting about this compilation is the consistency of Boilermaker's sound -- from the beginning, it seems, this was a band that knew exactly what face it wanted to present to the world -- coupled with the creativity of the music. At its worst, Boilermaker plays worthwhile and accomplished indie rock; and at its best, as on the leadoff track "Whitewash," or "Last Stop on the Way to Vegas" from its third album, the band sings way above its range.

Part of that consistency, too, no doubt arises from the band's culling its first three albums for this collection (Leucadia results from Boilermaker regaining control of its back catalogue, after a protracted struggle with numerous labels). In presenting a representative sampling of its music to a wide audience for the first time, Boilermaker's getting a second chance early in its career. Now that we're all up to speed, it'll be worth watching to see what the band does for its second encore.



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Eric Waggoner