Friday Full-Length: Pearls and Brass, The Indian Tower

Pearls and Brass, The Indian Tower (2006)

Through what seems in hindsight like some miracle of interwebular happenstance — and by that I mean it likely happened through or the All That is Heavy store — I managed to catch wind of the self-titled debut from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, trio Pearls and Brass around the time of its release through Doppelganger Records in 2003. That record was killer, and I’ll admit that if anyone had put it up on YouTube in its front-to-back entirety, I’d probably be closing out the week with it instead of its 2006 follow-up, The Indian Tower, which came out on Drag City, but the second outing was more fully developed in its approach, bringing together the bounce and desert-perfection thrust of Queens of the Stone Age‘s Songs for the Deaf with rolling Pennsylvania hillsides on cuts like opener “The Tower” and the subsequent “No Stone” while saving room for acoustic blues on “I Learn the Hard Way” and closer “Away the Mirrors,” and ’70s-style boogie that seems absolutely prescient in hindsight on “Pray for Sound” and only gets more manic with the kick into next gear on “The Boy of the Willow Tree.” First record or second, you don’t really lose either way, is my point. While keeping to organic undertones and the occasional flourish of pastoralia, Pearls and Brass could absolutely scorch the earth when they chose to do so — see “The Mirror” here — but they’d ultimately be no less defined by that than the heavy blues vibe of “Wake in the Morning.” Dudes were just awesome.

Last time I saw Pearls and Brass was in 2011 (review here). It was my first experience ever going to Saint Vitus Bar — I appreciated the fact that it wasn’t in Williamsburg but had little forethought as to the institution it would and has become — and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Randy Huth, bassist/backing vocalist Joel Winter, and drummer Josh Martin still brought it. By then, they were already overdue for a third full-length, but watching them live gave some measure of hope they’d be able to get something going again. Four years earlier, in 2007 Huth had also released a solo album of unplugged Americana folk blues, also via Drag City, under the moniker of Randall of Nazareth. Copies still exist for purchase on the interwebs if you’re interested in hunting it down, which if either “I Learn the Hard Way” or “Away the Mirrors” pique your interest as a complement to the rush of “The Face of God” here build on that nicely. Intimate vibe, like a bluesier take on some of Ben Chasny‘s stuff, but unpretentious to the point of recorded-in-the-living-room humility. Some five years after that record came out, I was fortunate enough to catch Huth — who had been playing for years with aggro punkers Pissed Jeans already — do a Randall of Nazareth set in Philly opening a show for EYE and Serpent Throne at Johnny Brenda’s (review here). I felt like I was getting away with something, and given how much he and/or Pearls and Brass have done since — not much — I probably was.

I don’t know what Winter or Martin have been up to, but Pissed Jeans have kept Huth busy. They have a new album, titled Why Love Now, out in two weeks on Sub Pop, for example, and they’ll tour to support it, so while Pearls and Brass are very likely tabled for good — as much as anything is ever permanent in rock and roll; never say never, never say die, always say “hiatus” — at least Huth has managed to find success elsewhere. It’s not really my thing compared to the pull and shove of “Black Rock Man” on The Indian Tower, but good on him anyhow. The self-titled Pearls and Brass, its follow-up and the Randall of Nazareth outing can remain as ripe-for-reissue fodder for the time being, like so many righteous offerings of the pre-Facebook oughts era.

As always, I very much hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

Sort of a procedural note here — some bookkeeping, if you will — but at the end of last week I changed the name I post under from from H.P. Taskmaster to JJ Koczan, which if you didn’t know is my real name. It wasn’t a secret or anything. It’s what I post as on Thee Facebooks and I think Twitter and Instagram as well, but I’d been using H.P. Taskmaster for years here basically because it felt self-serving to see “published by JJ Koczan” on every post. Still kind of does.

It’s a weird name, not particularly attractive to the eye, so I avoided looking at it for a long time. I guess I finally decided I didn’t give a shit anymore. It’s not anything that has a bearing on what I’ll cover or how I’ll cover it — like I said, just bookkeeping — but it was a change I made and I thought I’d mention it, if only so I could go back later, search for “when I started posting under my real name” and find the date. I had decided not to mention it on social media and see if anyone even noticed. If they did, nobody mentioned it. Fair enough.

We got a decent-sized snowstorm yesterday on the Eastern Seaboard, and I was given the day off work as a result. Back at work today, but the bonus day was a welcome gimme and I was glad to take it. My commute is an hour each way — not nearly as bad as the last one, and neither is the job itself, but still, it’s not nothing — and it’s started to wear on me a bit, particularly in the winter evenings. I leave in the morning, it’s dark. I come home at night, it’s dark. I don’t think I saw the sun at all in January. Hello, Norway. It’s started to get lighter earlier and stay lighter later, but I find myself looking forward to summer in a way that can only mean I’ve forgotten how unpleasant life is when it’s 100 degrees out. Humans are simple creatures. Whatever I qualify as, it’s even simpler.

Next week (and actually the week after, too) is already packed. Here’s what’s in my notes:

Mon.: Six Organs of Admittance review (doing myself a favor there) and Dot Legacy video premiere.
Tue.: Full album stream/review of the new Thera Roya, video from Deep Space Destructors.
Wed.: Track premiere from the new Sweat Lodge EP, video from Lung Flower.
Thu.: Track premiere from the new Libido Fuzz album.
Fri.: Full album stream/review from Deep Space Destructors.

Yeah, it’s gonna get pretty far out by the time we hit Friday next week, and that’s definitely okay by me.

The Patient Mrs.‘ birthday is this weekend, and while the snowstorm curtailed my prior present-picking-up intentions yesterday, we’ll nonetheless be celebrating with family on Saturday and likely eating homemade jalapeno poppers on Sunday, which is the day itself, so I expect that will be good. Whatever you’re up to, I wish you a joyous time, relaxing if that’s what you’re looking for, or otherwise action-packed and suspenseful, if that’s more your speed.

Have fun, be safe, thanks again for reading, and please check out the forum and radio stream.

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2 Responses to “Friday Full-Length: Pearls and Brass, The Indian Tower

  1. Jason says:

    Man, I love P&B. Was hoping beyond hope they would produce some more music these last year’s, alas…

  2. Alex says:

    Great band, gone too soon. I love their previous album even more.

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