One of the functions of a music writer is to categorize bands so that the average citizen can, within their short attention span for the written word, decide to listen or not. We take a lot of grief about it, but we struggle too. However, when one reads of a band being compared to the B side of the “You’re My Battery” 7-inch by Japanese band Sunnychar, released in 1994 in the U.S. on Shredder Records, it’s meaningless to anyone other than record-collecting fanboys. On the other hand, going on about how the Aeolian cadences gently duel with the glissando at the end of the phrase doesn’t help anyone except music majors. Can’t say I have any solutions here, so with all the above in mind, we’ll just move along.
The Black Apples has an updated Nuggets feel.
Confused already, right? Let’s back up a moment. In 1972, Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye compiled a double LP called Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968 on Elektra Records. It was a collection of songs by one- and no-hit wonders such as The Castaways, Blues Magoos and The Cryan’ Shames. These were crude but spirited garage bands that managed to get a little airplay in the heady days when FM radio was the medium of the disc jockey and not the corporate owner.
With elements of surf, soul and garage, The Black Apples has the ability to bring that feel to the fore in a creative way—unlike retro psych bands that merely riff on “Psychotic Reaction” or “Dirty Water” over and over.
What that says to me is that bandmates Andrew H. Scarborough, Campbell Scarborough, Nick Murray and Dameon Lee Waggoner know their rock and roll history, but they use it as an inspiration rather than a template. As displayed on their self titled self-released LP, the band can pull a rockin’ freak-out as good as anyone (“Buffalo”) but have enough reserve to open the record with a slow-burning high desert surf epic complete with melancholic vocals (“Suzanne”).
A few songs later there’s the elegant falsetto of “Coming Home,” reminiscent of the earliest Motown songs before that label’s hits were polished to a blinding sheen. Immediately following is “20 Years at Sea,” somewhere between Tommy James & the Shondells and the melodic guitar riffing of Built To Spill in counterpoint to the emotional vocals. In other songs you’ll hear a sitar minus the Indian drone that was overdone by acid-frying hippies in the ’60s. In other words, the instrument is gently folded into the song and used for its own sake rather than as a misguided tribute to Ravi Shankar.
In spite of the quiet dexterity put into the musical arrangement on The Black Apples, it still rocks. Even the order of the tracks appears calculated to change things up just when the listener needs it. All reports say that this Echo Park, Calif. / Fort Collins, Colo. outfit is pull-
Also playing this Kosmos show is the mighty trash-rocking Scrams—which sounds like the band doesn’t even have a garage to play in—and the slower, heavier and considered music of Janksder. A little something for everyone, the way a good show lineup ought to be. As a plus we get to welcome back Burque ex-pat and Apples bassist Dameon Lee (Lowlights; ex-Scared of Chaka), if only for the night.
Oh, and by the way, The Black Apples doesn’t sound like Sunnychar or Blues Magoos. And there’s no Aeolian cadence. Whatever the hell that is.