Rock and Reprise.net
THE BIG MOTIF
Aaaahhh... three man rock. I miss the late sixties and early seventies when bands like Cream spawned a few thousand hard rocking trios and you could take your pick. Off the top of my head, I can name a few--- May Blitz, Sir Lord Baltimore, Ursa Major, Glass Harp ( though I probably shouldn't include them because they were on another plane altogether), Blue Cheer, Hydra. Let's see, was Hard Stuff a trio? My heart says yes but my head says no. They sounded like they were on their Bullet Proof album. God knows, there was nothing better at an outdoor festival than the ass-kicking and pounding not to mention head crunching that three guys could put out. Whatever happened to bands like that?
Well, The Big Motif would be a throwback to those days of they weren't so damn much further up the food chain. No three chord earsplitting blasts from them, or fifteen minute free-rolling jams. What they have is controlled though loose, patterned in an unpatterned way thanks to their penchant toward jazz. The music, straight ahead rock, is infused with minor chords, syncopated rhythms and jazz riffs all anchored by an ever-present bass (which occasionally goes on a little journey of its own). It would be adventurous if it wasn't structured the way it is, but it is adventurous in the way they handle bridges and breaks. Their way is somewhat short and to the point. It fits and it really works.
One thing I really love about these guys is that they don't hide behind overdubs and electronics. Most of the time you get what they are, period. I say most of the time because at the end of the EP they throw a couple of wrenches in that statement. Reserved, Absurd starts with a an upbeat jazz/rock riff, the guitar sounding a bit like what Jerry Miller was playing during the Live Grape phase of Moby Grape and works it to virtual perfection. Want a little bass solo? It's here too. And pretty good, I might add. Unnatural Selection really throws the wrench into the theory. With underwater overtones on the guitar much like what propelled Neko Case's Star Witness toward the top of my favorite tracks list, they lighten up and go ballad on us. It is a solid track and straddles the cusp of 'out there' and 'yeah'. The chorus even has a bit of the vocal group style to it.
This album is solid with impressive music, but my favorite is the very unique (to this album, anyway) My Only Friend. Built on a bedrock of beat heavy rhythm guitar and bass, they throw in an underlying electronic guitar (?) chord that takes it over the top, the sound working so well together that it straight knocks me out. It reminds me a bit of what Mist and Mast does now and again and if you haven't checked them out I suggest you do so. I mean, even the uplilting (and yes, I mean lilting) vocal riff which backs the lead vocal is unique and impressive.
This isn't the first thing from these guys. , self-titled I believe, when they were a four-man band. It impressed the hell out of me too. Read my thoughts here. Does It Weight Heavy has me looking back to it as well and my conclusion is that these guys have a boatload of talent waiting to be discovered. Maybe the sound won't appeal to everyone (actually, no sound appeals to everyone), but musicians will get it and the music fans who are deep into what it takes to make the music they revere. That should be enough to keep going for a long time, provided they can be found. Check them out and if you dig it, pass it along to your friends. This is the kind of stuff real music freaks treasure.
Frank O. Gutch Jr.
Supporting the Indies Since 1969