Monomania succeeded as an album and as artistic propaganda because it couldn’t not. However good it ultimately is (not bad, I say) it could never be anything short of a monomatic genre exercise, an outlandish novelty. “Whoa. Bradford Cox went garage rock, didja hear?” Not to get cynical here, but Cox had to’ve considered Thom Yorke in the calculus of the album’s inception. Leader of the elected outfit of rock saviors falls down a rabbit hole, emerges through a drain pipe, changes music forever. We’ll see how that goes.
One band you can set outside the anxiety of Cox or his influence is Bloomington, Indiana’s Apache Dropout - a group that wouldn’t go dream pop even if they had the money for studio time, or, you know, knew how. They’re too busy being a genuine garage rock band. You can tell because you can tell they learned to play everyone else’s catalogue (seriously, everyone’s) before fooling themselves into making up one of their own.
Broadly, their third album, Heavy Window, sounds like the midpoint of early Butthole Surfers and anytime Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments - something that should’ve seemed inevitable, and would’ve been if alt rock had managed to recover from its hideous Stroke. But please don’t allow me to reduce them any further than that. Yes, Dropout Apache suffers from unrelenting guitar death, and their frontman, Sonny Blood, screams (I’m sorry) bloody murder enough to amend for occasional intelligibility (whether vocal or lyrical) - but they exceed either forerunner in flexibility.
Contained within the well worn signifiers of consciously poor form is a kind of menagerie of stolen goods from rock history. And it’s all somehow kind of obvious, like it transcends the murk. Actually, there’s no like about it. Dropout Apache is transcendently allusive. There’re too many familiar riffs here to name, and Blood steps out from behind the McDonald’s drive-through speaker a few times to (sorry again) serve up some classics.
After two opening horrorshows (ordered by Cobain’s alt screed, ‘verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, bad solo’) the third track, “Trash is Treasure,” rides the new new wave - it’s a Talking Heads call and response in sprechgesang, with Blood masquerading as Fred Schneider.
Then comes “Movie Magic,” which clones “Sister Ray” and puts a smile on her face. Well, the riff is brighter, anyhow. Blood (sorry) kinda congeals here to a thick slog - but not necessarily in a bad way. “Crystal Ball” is polluted surf rock; “Left the Nest” lifts in morbid reverb a Chuck Berry riff I can’t recall (but I’m comfortable saying 'every one of them’); and “Detectives” goes X on yr unsuspecting ass.
There’re some pretty good hooks too, since I failed to mention. I’m sure many of those are also stolen.
I amused myself before I wrote this - I thought of calling Heavy Window a covers album without any covers. But it isn’t. Everyone fakes it. Just ask Bradford Cox.
I also thought of mentioning that like Monomania, Heavy Window is about as appropriate as album titles get - what with these songs being a heavy tinted look out to rock gods of yesteryear. But that’s a load of bullshit. I bet their pad's just got a big, heavy window they wish they could open when practice gets too hot. Or something like that. They’re just a garage rock band, after all.