If there’s one thing that’s going to test a band – so much so that most acts will go out of their way to avoid the challenge altogether – it’s recording live. Des Moines, Iowa, five-piece Superchief take the task head on with their aptly-titled, self-released five-song EP Rock Music. From what I can gather, the music was done with the two guitars, bass and drums playing together and the vocals added later. It’s not exactly the same, but you can’t really hold it against the band when you consider vocalist JT Strang hadn’t yet joined when the first tracks were put to tape. That kind of thing can really mess with the timing.
Superchief play straightforward guitar-led stoner rock with tonal nods to Queens of the Stone Age’s earlier work, Pure Rock Fury-era Clutch and Fu Manchu, but they aren’t afraid to let the boogie out on “Rock ‘n Roll Living,” with lead six-stringer Ricc Terranova lets an impressive solo fly at 2:45 and rhythm guitarist Jason Monroe holds down the song’s main riff with bassist Jason Boten and drummer Ryan Marcum. Strang’s vocals have a slight Hendrixian inflection, but are otherwise unaffected, sounding natural over the music and asking little of the listener. In some ways, it’s evident he hadn’t been in the band long, but he doesn’t feel out of place, which works greatly to the songs’ benefit.
There are few surprises in store on Rock Music, right down to closer “Bus Ride Messiah” being the longest and spaciest of the five cuts, with highlight soloing from Terranova, but like the EP itself, “Georgia Trucker Fun” offers a what-you-see-is-what-you-get good vibes, beginning with an appropriate sample of a (presumably) beer can opening before the riff kicks in. It’s readily apparent that Superchief aren’t trying to recreate stoner rock from the ground up, but there are nuances to the songs that make them the band’s own, no matter how outwardly generic they might seem. “Sweat” is the best song on the EP precisely because it doesn’t fall into the usual riff and shout stoner trap. A killer riff doesn’t hurt it either, though.
“Amen” has a slightly different feel than “Rock ‘n Roll Living” which follows it and is where Superchief most earns the aforementioned Queens of the Stone Age comparison musically, but Strang’s vocals never even attempt a Josh Homme impression, and I think that’s probably the right choice. They may have some developing to do as far as casting an identity for themselves, but Rock Music, in both title and concept — and really, if you think about it, as a basis for existence — is a damn good place to start.Iowa, Superchief, Unsigned bands