There's no way to put it lightly: The men of Gospel Claws have been through the wringer.
Lineup changes. A cancer scare. Most tragically, the suicide of guitarist Mark Erikson. It's been a weird couple of years since the band's last record, 2010's excellent C-L-A-W-S. Given the strife, it's easy to read into the lyrics of the band's brand new effort, Put Your Sunshine Away, released Tuesday, November 20 on Common Wall Media (vinyl copies are available for pre-order from President Gator Records).
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Digging deep into the record's lyrics offers plenty of rewards, but the first impression taken away from "I Want it All," the striking, stark list-of-demands-and-wishes that doubles as the record's lead single, is a simple one: these Gospel Claws are a tough bunch.
As dual frontmen Joel Marquard and Sloan Walters trade lines (their dramatic interplay has always been one of the distinct pleasures offered by their live show), the drums and bass pick up, buoyed by surf guitars and girl group dynamics. "I want it all," the duo harmonizes, pining for a creek that flows through a back yard, good health ("knock on wood"), feet "soaked in a money pool," and "water turned into cheap wine."
No one would blame Gospel Claws for turning in a somber record this time around, a dreary treatise on mortality. It would have been warranted, and given the Gospel Claws' songwriting skills, probably pretty good.
But Put Your Sunshine Away isn't that record. Built on choppy R&B rhythms, surfy swoons, sock hop coos, and dance floor shuffles, it's something else, a celebration of survival, an ode to digging in your heels. After all, the Claws did other things in the years since C-L-A-W-S. They got married, they had kids, they bought good records, they played great shows.
Ultimately, that's what Put Your Sunshine Away is about. It's an admonition to keep surviving, to keep finding things to celebrate about. Gospel Claws have endured, and chances are good that Put Your Sunshine Away will do so, too.
Gospel Claws are scheduled to perform Friday, November 30, at the Crescent Ballroom.
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