Friday, July 23, 2010

Rock 'n Roll Sunstroke - River City Tan Lines

tonight in L.A. at Wooly's Blvd. in Echo Park - don't miss out, hipsters

A three-piece rock band made up of guitarist Alicja Trout, bassist Terrence Bishop and drummer John Bonds, the Memphis, Tennesee-based River City Tanlines mines Delta-area musical heritage and 1970s punk fury to create their sound. Together since 2004, the group has a series of 7" singles and two albums to their credit.

Since Memphis is probably the new Brooklyn, it makes sense that the sounds coming from the South are dirty and amplified. River City Tanlines singer/guitarist Alicja Trout's former duties in the gritty Memphis quartet Lost Sounds have prepared her for the equally chaotic Tanlines. A series of seven inches has served as a sampling until Dirtnap put them all on CD last fall. Fry. – Audra Schroeder


Memphis’ River City Tanlines have taken booze-infused punk and flying-V guitars and created a new definition of the Dirty South. Led by guitarist and singer Alicja Trout, formerly of Memphis space punks the Lost Sounds, the trio pumps out soul-soaked slabs that barely reach three minutes before coming up for air. Their first four 7-inches have just been released on CD, courtesy of Portland’s Dirtnap Records, so feel the burn. Locals Nervous Hospital, Hotrails, Tokyo Nites, and Flash Boys open.


With a meld of Joan Jett and the Paybacks (meaning equally volatile and catchy as hell), the River City Tanlines take the somewhat laconic backbeat of Southern stylistics and toss it asunder with lowdown dirty whiskey garage rock. Alicja Trout is best known for her bout of synth-punk disaster in Lost Sounds (whose sound does reappear a bit on “My Reflection”!), legends of their own no-time zone, while her rhythm section of John Bonds and Terrence Bishops has tampered with Fat Possum plunderers RL Burnside and T Model Ford , though these 15 year veterans of Memphis madness today play with Jack Oblivian and the Tennessee Tearjerkers. “I’m Your Negative” has all that lack of sheen and shine that we expect from Memphis; it’s gruff, rollicking, and knee tapping too, as if no matter how rejected and dejected Trout may be, she ain’t gonna stand still with hips of concrete.

There’s always a true rock’n’roll sway ready to save the day, while “In My Mode Rollin” is more AC/DC (earliesh period) territory, all wide swaths of guitar mashing and gnashing and slow-paced, mid-period Runaways delivery that make teenage doldrums feel like big diesel engines. Her flying V guitar is the perfect metaphor for ruckus right here, and “Shoot the Eye Out” follows the leader, though you can feel the Flamin’ Groovies meets Redd Kross tambourine pep add some layers of jukebox classicism, hinting of sweet whiffs of cheerleader hustle. On the other hand, “Animal Life” is short, atavistic, and tastes like charcoal on the tongue. It’s searing and brandishes tough skin and snarls. “Cryin’ Bleedn’, Dyin” is a soft-core cover, a 1960’s garage gland that would seem at home on any Thee Headcoatees album; it’s slightly au-go-go, slightly slinky, and slightly ramshackle. Meanwhile, “Whenever I Rot” is pure unfiltered noise-o-rama and tussles with speed and fury as if every muscle was wrestling with a dragon in the form of an El Camino. Still, the breakdown at the end reveals the old-fashioned rock’n’roll triumph of the will, the winking Fonzie inside us all.

The Donnas-esque (don’t hate me for saying that!) “Looking for a Line” is tellingly mustered-up, barely repressed pop full of understated relationship woe and innuendo (“please don’t try to hold my hand/oh please don’t touch me can you understand?”) that reveals the heart as a region where finding the right language at the right time becomes as weird and difficult as finding a guitar pic in a haystack. Bouncy become bigger on “Not Gonna Think About it Anymore” as innocence trumps vendetta and pain and brazen bursts are replaced by almost kitschy postcard shuffles. However, that hiatus is brief because “Drowning Dreams” unfurls like a haunted wasteland of suffering. The mood is razory and wrecked, and it sounds like Trout would rather huff paint and eat engine grease on fire than kiss and make up. It’s scary, but even this onslaught is tempered as it segues into Adam and the Ant woo’s and harmonies of the final cut “Gimme All Your Cuts,” which makes the whole outing momentous and less roughneck than the beginning suggests.
This is holy water to those who believe that raw rock should be both girly and grrly, a stab at sonic dreams that plunder some clich├ęs while embracing others. It is not wholly new or upstart, but it is true and tried, like an emblem of what’s best inside the germ of rock’n’roll.
Worth three potato chips.


Probably my fave Alicja Trout side-band (or is it a side band now?). If you came expecting the cold-wave synth of the LOST SOUNDS, you got the wrong band. What makes this one different from the other femme fronted garage rockers is the pedigree of the members who have done stints with RL BURNSIDE and LOVE among others. While their sound is rooted in punk rock traditions like a stripped down garage AVENGERS, they have a bunch of 60's pop and even 70's rock (think JOAN JETT) sensibilities. The songwriting is masterful, playing tight as fuck, and recording near perfect. I've been hard pressed to find fault with this label, and this release ups the ante. I could see this band blowing up WHITE STRIPES-style - keep 'em peeled. (TB)


....5. Flip Side Kid, Jack-O & the Tennessee Tearjerkers (Sympathy for the Record Industry) and 6. I’m Your Negative, River City Tanlines (Dirtnap Records). Terrance "T-Money" Bishop, bass player for both the Tanlines and the Tearjerkers, recently elucidated the difference between the guiding forces behind each of these bands. Tanlines frontwoman Alicja Trout has had to work incredibly hard to get to where she is, he explained, while Jack Yarber of the Tearjerkers often seems to toss off songs so easily as to seem haphazard.

For Trout all the hard work has resulted in the best work of her career. Finally shaking free of the association of her male collaborators in bands such as the Clears and the Lost Sounds, I’m Your Negative finds the punk rocker blossoming as a songwriter and a guitarist in her own right. Meanwhile, Yarber, no stranger to punk through his association with the Oblivians and other bands, finds himself gently stretching his sound on Flip Side Kid. Working alone and with a revolving cast of players, Yarber dabbles in country, zydeco, and Ennio Morricone, revealing a greatly under-recognized songwriting talent beneath all the garage noise.


Over the last decade, singer and guitar player Alicja Trout has exchanged the sleek black S&M style she cultivated with revisionist new-wavers the Clears for a more casual, less manicured look while becoming the most versatile and prolific female performer in the great-big-boy's club of Memphis rock-and-roll. With I'm Your Negative, she's done that which is nearly impossible: making a nuanced studio recording that loses very little of the sweaty garage-punk energy that made the band's previous recordings so much fun. "Looking for a Line" is a viciously addictive ditty, and it never hurts having John "Bubba" Bonds and Terrence Bishop, Memphis' tightest rock-and-roll rhythm section, keeping your time. -- Ch


Get your stomp on...RIVER CITY TANLINES sends “I’m Your Negative” - Runaway rock-n-roll that knows how to treat you right, songs that deliver from the word go. Waste rock is on the rise and these cats are on fire – R. Davis


Until the River City Tanlines began to put out records, I didn't like the Alicja bands a lot outside of the Lost Sounds. But with this band, I can't say that anymore. After putting out lots of really cool 7-inches, now they have put out an even more awesome LP.

If you have heard the singles, you know what you will find: rockin' punk with lots of pop/indie feelings and some really fast hardcore songs soundin' very rock. The slow songs are just near the perfection, I really love 'em, especially "Lookin for a Line" (at this point, my fave song of the year by far). And the hardcore songs are also really good, but I think they haven't the correct sound, very rock near metal for me, as songs they are good but the slow songs are miles beyond the hardcore stuff. I can understand that for live shows they are very cool and even on record to give it variety, but I don't dig the hardcore songs that much. If the complete album were like the slow songs, I think it would be the best album of the year for sure. But since it isn't that, it's just totally fuckin' awesome. One of the best releases Dirtnap has ever put out, Avengers/Bags total fans like me will love it.


I'm rarely correct about such things, but I'm Your Negative sure smells like a potential million seller to me. And being a person who's always believed that good music deserves to be heard by the masses, I sure hope I'm right. Perhaps I'm overestimating the tastes and desires of the music-buying public. Perhaps today's modern rock airwaves are closed off to any band not tailor made for the pseudo goth, nu metal, mall-punk, and emo-core market niches. But the River City Tanlines definitely have the sound, the songs, and the appeal needed to blow up huge in the rock world. And just as importantly, they've got a real star in Alicja Trout.

Trout (Lost Sounds, Black Sunday, Mouserocket, Clears, Fitts) has got a real good voice, can play the hell out of the guitar, and demonstrates the ability to excel across a wide variety of musical styles. And with a mug ideal for magazine covers and music videos, she could be an international sensation. I'm Your Negative offers up everything from smokin' Memphis rock n' roll (the title track) to gorgeous indie-pop ("Not Gonna Think About It Anymore") to punky hard rock ("In My Mode Rollin'") to blistering hardcore punk ("Animal Life") to radio-friendly alt-rock ("Lookin' For a Line") to raging '92 grunge ("Drowning Dreams"). Mix it all together, and you've got yourself a damn good rock album.

"I'm Your Negative" is as good a rock n' roll song as you'll hear all year (or any other year, for that matter!). It rides a relentless bluesy riff into a knockout chorus full of slashing guitars and shout-along lyrics. Rhythm players John Bonds and Terrance Bishop have worked with some of the best in the business (RL Burnside, T-Model Ford, Dale Hawkins, Fat Possum's Kenny Brown, Jack Oblivian's Tearjerkers, Mr. Airplane Man's Margaret Garret), and they're on fire on this track. On the strength of Trout's burning vocal and the trio's electrifying R & B/punk attack, "I'm Your Negative" rates up there with the best of the Bellrays or Detroit Cobras. If you don't like this song, you don't like rock n' roll. The dreamy, beautiful "Not Gonna Think About It Anymore" is equally great in a completely opposite way. "My Reflection" could be a massive crossover radio smash -- it combines progressive indie/post-punk stylings with formidable pop hooks and that all-important hard edge. And if you feel like rocking out, it doesn't get any better than "In My Mode Rollin'". It's great hard rockin' punk that gets me banging my head every time.

I suppose the downside to an "eclectic" album like I'm Your Negative is that there aren't more songs like the title track. I really could have gone for one or two more balls-out rockers (especially in place of the more generic hardcore numbers). But that's only a minor complaint, and I think the majority of music fans are more likely to take to could-be hits like "Lookin' For a Line" and "My Reflection". If I'm drivin' in my car a few months from now and hear one of the above on the local modern rock station, I won't be shocked.

---Lord Rutledge
October 26, 2006


Smoke after the fireworks; hanging in the air like a specter. That’s what this album sounds like: smoke in your clothes, eyes burning, lingering notes drifting through the air, slow to dissipate. And although it doesn’t come right out and scream all the way through like the quiver of released and previously collected singles, the result’s remarkable. It’s a slow-burning smolder that shows age as maturity, which, when it does explode, is all the more powerful (think of the tension of the burning fuse). Joan Jett’s not dead, but Alicja Trout is my generation’s Joan Jett: an undeniable talent driving a force behind whatever marketing ploy could theoretically be foisted upon her. At the core, she’s a consummate, passionate musician. This is music for mature rockers who don’t devalue youth nor fake their age and it’s for fans of bands as widely scattered as the Bassholes, Top Ten, Big Star, Mouserocket, Roky Erickson, and, well, great rock music. –Todd Taylor (Dirtnap)


.....River City Tanlines is a more straightforward band thing. Alicja Trout's ever-present '80s herky-jerkys splatter through a power pop groove, straddling Devo and Nikki And The Corvettes. But the crackling energy and Trout's multi-tracked vocal ring give everything a fresh sting.


Continuing a lengthy lineage of scuzzed-up guitar-slinging American garage rockers, Memphis' River City Tanlines will be infintely more exhilarating experienced down the local Spit & Sawdust instead of via tinny CD fascimile. Still, cute frontwoman Alicja A Trout should keep boys and fans of daft names chirpy for now


If you're fishing the greatest Trout (Alicja that is) in rock n' roll then cast your bait towards this killer CD. In a world that is a better place this would be the band on TRL that every kid in America was screaming for. But if the world was a better place, I guess punk garage trash rock wouldn't sound this vicious.


River City Tanlines' newest tunes. They are gettin' a tougher on this one on Dirtnap. Bubba And T-Money get it all wrapped up tighter, the guitar is gettin louder. Good stuff. 11 tunes from one of Memphis' premier punk n' roll three pieces. Ya dont need anymore folks than that, ya know?


.....Not only do the ladies in our pathetic lives make sure we've got plenty of spicy food available for football games, they also run some pretty awesome bands. The River City Tanlines out of Memphis, TN, are a perfect example. These guys came to Pittsburgh last winter to play a poorly attended show, then hung out with all of us rock n roll jag offs. The two fellas in the band fit in perfectly with us, we watched football, drank beers, and schemed on chicks. The two of them are southern fried shitbags of the highest order, and somehow, Alicja Trout, formerly of the Lost Sounds, puts up with them. The Tanlines have a new Dirtnap LP called I'm Your Negative which picks up with their brand of Memphis garage punk right where their 7"s left off.

Another band including Alicja Trout (Lost Sounds, etc) and a wide-ranging array of material—foot stomping boogie/bluesy rock on the first two tracks, taking a poppier direction for “Shoot The Eye Out” and “No Gonna Think About It Anymore,” dabbling in hardcore (not very well) for “Whenever I Rot” and adding a nervier edge for “My Reflection” and “Drowning Dreams.” A lack of predictability and, while not every song is a success—the Richard Hell-ish strut of “Cryin’ Bleedin’ Dyin’” drags a bit—there’s some solid fired-up rock here.


Much anticipated debut LP from Alicja, Bubba, and T-Money, coming in the wake of a string of three-and-a half great singles, and it lives up to expectations and then some. The title track and "In My Mode Rollin'" (from the split with The Intellectuals) are perfect examples of the straight-ahead hard guitar rock they mastered on the singles. Then there's more punk-sounding stuff: "Animal Life" has a breakneck pace hiding a deep hook that sideswipes you in transit and "Whenever I Rot" sounds like Alicja fronting the 'Earth A.D.'-era Misfits (with a better guitar player). Quite a few tunes have what could be considered a maninstream/crossover appeal: hard-to-not-like anthems like "Shoot the Eye Out!" and "My Reflection" (which actually has some slight synth on it, which I'll have to forgive). There's even some playful indie-poprocking ("Not Gonna Think About it Anymore") and an undeniably strong finish with the sweeping one-two combo of "Drowning Dreams"/"Gimme All Your Cuts". It's no secret Alicja is a great songwriter, and here she uses all of the tools at her disposal, including a rhythm section rock-solid enough to build a house on. Eleven tracks, with only one real bummer in the bunch, the LP extends the reach of the band with fantastic results. I had high hopes for this record coming in, and I left more than satisfied, even if it isn't as raw as the singles. Scum stats: plenty to go around, but the first 100 mailorder copies were on beautiful orange vinyl.(RK)

T-Money and Bubba's early R&R juggernaut "Son of Slam"


Lately my meandering emotional status has unsettingly veered from hopeless melancholic introspection to seething anger-wrecked tumult. I have not a clue as to the reason behind these physically exhausting mood swings (a secret change of ingredients in my favorite beer perhaps?), but I do know that the River City Tanlines have provided me with a sudden burst of tingly insurmountable joy. I’m Your Negative is the euphoric, heart-stopping essence of Rock ‘n’ Roll snugly wrapped in a sugary sweet quilt of Power Pop resplendence and abundantly splashed with a rhythmically delicious topping. Alicja Trout’s sassy schoolgirl vocals are perfectly and energetically complemented by her uncanny ability to exorcise golden demons out of the guitar, all the while firmly reiterating my belief that Miss Trout is the premier singer/songwriter/musician of the millennial era. Terrence Bishop skillfully flicks the taut strings of his bass as if he were Picasso corrupting a blank canvas with a vibrant array of dazzling bright colors. J. Ferrel Bonds II intricately lays waste to his drumkit like a maddog demolitions expert exuberantly relishing the precisely paced explosion to come. River City Tanlines obviously love their calling… the proof is in the music. (CD)


A dangerous romp of pool-hall jukebox metal that rivaled the Runaways straight out the gate with addictive hooks, spine-breaking basslines and brilliant songs that seemed to hit the mullet on the business end without a breather.

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