Sonic Reducer: Fuguers Cove

August March
3 min read
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In Justin Bendell’s work as fuguers cove, there are moments when comparisons are apt but it’s still like walking out on the wing of a really big and fast jet airliner when it comes to the rocanrol that this dude makes in a home studio.

Yeah this could have come from a four-track sitting in a basement in Dayton, Ohio or New Hope, Pa.—but it’s coming from right now, out of an expansively, exquisitely and ironically fertile desert. You can tell by the twang.

After several totally underground releases—that have mostly found their mark by landing in the hands of nerdy outsiders begging for symbols and sonic signage that attest to rocanrol’s ultimate redemption—fuguers cove has released a record that summarizes the state of the genre in 2019. It’s skeletal but alive as well, grinding away unselfconsciously, gloriously with all the existential angst and insidious ennui that one expects.

But the sound that’s coming from those bones dancing en plein air is not a gentle one; nor is it coming from a rock club or a recital hall, but rather from deep within the mind of a man on the edge of town.

Bendell’s craggy vocals verge on tortured and at times, he seems really far off in those hills, buried by desert dust in the ideas that he brings to life on sick tunes like “skin.” Still, he finds a way to turn chaos into a clever hook or transcendent instrumental break.

It’s kinda like listening to angry version of The Kinks but with Keith Richards on lead guitar and Dave Mustaine singing while certain Pixies members are probing your brain the whole time with a tuned-down, sped up version of reality like the one described on “lung champions of big hearted river.” But, of course, it isn’t like that at all.

That’s because every time one thinks they’ve got Bendell and company clarified or pigeonholed or relegated to the presumptively predictable turns that are currently in favor in
rocanrolandia, the whole band twists away from definition in a seriously postmodern strategy that ends up yielding further examples of melodic mastery like discursively destructive gem “saturday night special,” a song with a slow shuffle that leads straight to hell.

After a decidedly GbV turn (”youth of america”), the band takes a grungy, gravelly path, and they end up going all the way with the chaos and noise that they shamelessly flirted with earlier. The result is an unpretentious, unscripted and totally true punk rock discourse of the beatnik glory variety—filling the remainder of this record with chunky, dirty, rocanrol goodness. The rawness is real, and nobody is trying to get a record deal by beating the shit out of their instruments on “red roof inn;” it just feels better that way.

My favorite track on this too-short collection of reasons why you should still love local rock music is called “birdlife.” There’s something magically uplifting about the frenzy contained in that minute and a half that allows listeners to crash into what comes next—on the record and in life—with the realization that the dark requires light for definition and, that birds require flight. If those are the only intentions manifest on this record, then they are damn satisfying.
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