If you like your modern-day interpretations of 60s trash-rock booze-drenched, then you’ll want to tune into Joan and The Rivers, a San Jose-based, EP-prone trio that released two, you guessed it, EPs – Meat Sweats Vol. 1 and 2 – last month. But, wait, wait, is that a little bit too reductive? Are these guys more than the sum parts of their 60s references? Only the EPs will reveal the truths beneath.
On the first, three-song disc, the trio sounds like a high-energy romp or sonic tryst among The Animals, The Sonics and Cream; on parts of the second disc, though, they echo The Clash and reference points more recent. Debate about specificity aside, though, Joan and The Rivers always seem to do more than give their rollicking songs room to breathe. While most tracks are of modest length, just three or four or five minutes, there’s a lot of texture and nuance, plenty of guitar noodling, and more bluesy laments than you could swing a dead cat at, if swinging a dead cat at things is your idea of a good time.
For my taste, I like the build and aural-gasm at the end of the pleasantly titled “Yokophono,” which closes the first EP, and the reverb-soaked lead-in to the second EP; if this were one six-song collection, it’d be a nice segue. And the wonderful, tangled mess of a solo on “Zaccident” is enough thrills for a release three or four times this length. These guys are getting better as they years roll on at nailing the tones that clearly influence them.
The second disc answers the question, “Why TWO EPs at once?!” The first song on the second EP, “Silicone Valley,” is one of the dual-release’s best — a bombastic and over-the-top trash take in the vein of Jon Spencer, one could say – but there’s a lot of punk in this delivery, a little distant from the mannerisms of the first record. The next track (“Catnap”), in fact, even aches of Fugazi-ness and, while, yes, I hear it, there’s a hint of Mitch Mitchell in some of the drum fluidity, the track is thoroughly more modern than “Yokophono” or the vast majority of the first disc. “Street Meat,” the closer, is a return to previous form – the reverb somehow slices, rather than floats in, the air.
This is a band that’s clearly angling for something beyond Xeroxing 60s strut, though it does just that pretty damned well. And, if you’re a loyal follower, and love them for “Sayanara Senior” or the live EP, you’ll love this, too.