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John Wilkes Booth: Get on the Bus

Kerry's got some ice cream on the bus, kids...Full disclosure: I know these dudes personally and have had the privilege of playing multiple shows with them in the past (hoping to continue to do so in the future as well). Usually, I wouldn’t review a band I know in real life, but the Booth I’m even more a fan of than I’m buddies with, so I figure the math checks out. Impartiality in reviews is a myth anyway, and Gawd is dead, so anything goes.

John Wilkes Booth have emerged — carried by their very own Booth Bus — fist-first from the oft-maligned recesses of Long Island, second only to Jersey in its production of mediocre heavy music and girls with big hair, with their premiere collection of tunes. Known as much for their refusal to partake in the pay-to-play scams promoters perpetrate on local bands trying to get their name out (and thus not kicking off too many shows at the Crazy Donkey) as for their holds-barredless approach, Sic Semper Tyrannis follows a similar philisophical course, all self-released and whatnot.

Lincoln's gone green.Their rock is stoner by technicality, more born from skate-punk or the grittier side of grunge stylistically than Goatsnake-worship — but their groove places them in the genre nonetheless, and vocalist Kerry‘s preaching could be loosely tied to the John Garcia school of pushing it out with maximum force at all times, getting into near-Rage Against the Machine territory on “Rats in My Room” following the multi-tracked, more laid back approach that starts “The Inner Workings.”

The latter is among the album’s strongest tracks, where the Booth find their most harmonious balance of hostility and head-bobbable catchy wisdom, like they were cashing a check they’ve been holding since 1995. Closer “Albino Mechanic” might just edge it out for the coveted highlight position, though, with its angular, almost Tool-ish guitar lines (the buildup that starts around 3:10 reminds of “Schism”) courtesy of Justin Marone and the chugging rhythms of bassist/prolific blogger Harry and drummer Christian, who might just be the angriest guy in this band. The song, also the longest on the record, is the moodiest and most diverse, promising that the band have more in them that what Sic Semper Tyrannis already capably showcases.

By way of a bonus — hey, a band’s got to sell their discs, man — the band has included their original five-track EP, which while not entirely necessary, shows them as noisier and somewhat more unhinged (despite the main riff of “Dense” being a dead ringer for Kyuss‘ “One Inch Man”) and thus demonstrates that their creative growth is already well under way. Here’s to the next round.

Awkward...John Wilkes Booth MySpace

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