Review & Full Album Stream: Mr. Plow, Maintain Radio Silence

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

mr plow maintain radio silence

[Click play above to stream Mr. Plow’s Maintain Radio Silence in its entirety. It’s out Aug. 10 on Ripple Music.]

Can you ever really know what to expect from a band after a 12-year absence? Sure, Houston’s Mr. Plow played sporadic local shows every now and again in between, but their last album, the self-released Kurt Vonnegut tribute Asteroid 25399 (discussed here), came out in 2006. I don’t know that they were ever broken up in the sense of making a public statement to that effect, but guitarist/vocalist Justin Waggoner went on to form Sanctus Bellum a few years back and it seemed like Mr. Plow, who had issued their first two albums — Head On and Cock Fights and Pony Racin’ — in 2000 and 2003, respectively, were yet another casualty of the pre-social media age of heavy rock.

In May 2017, the band announced a return with Cory Cousins of Sanctus Bellum (also Blues Funeral) taking over on drums, Waggoner, and original bassist Greg Green and guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Stone. They subsequently signed to Ripple Music and one has been looking forward to their fourth record, Maintain Radio Silence, ever since. And they’ve obviously been eager as well. Cousins doesn’t even give a full four-count on his hi-hat before opener “Sigil” kicks in. He only gets to two. But 12 years is not a short amount of time.

I’ll cop to being a Mr. Plow fan gladly, but even so, there were a few things it seemed fair to anticipate on Maintain Radio Silence. Straightforward songwriting has always been an asset for the band, and they’ve always had a full, natural sound on their records. The latest is no exception. With eight tracks and 40 minutes, Mr. Plow hit the standard easily — there were more songs recorded than wound up on the final LP; “Paxton,” “Southbound,” “Spark Arrester” and “Million Bucks” were on an earlier version that temporarily made its way out on Bandcamp — and aren’t through the aforementioned leadoff before they’ve dropped their first signature-style hook with Waggoner‘s gravely vocal up front as backed by Stone.

Their fuzz carries a familiar grit and their tracks overall, while (at least mostly) not based on the same kind lighthearted of references as, say, “Festivus” or “The Dude” from the second record, or working around the kind of central theme they did on Asteroid 25399, flow smoothly together and Cousins brings a touch of metal with him that can be heard in the cymbal work on “Samizdat” and the hard-hitting snare of the penultimate “Hammer Smashed Face,” which, no, is not a Cannibal Corpse cover. Between those and the wash of noise in third cut “Matchstick” and the airy lead and sense of space brought to the title-track, Maintain Radio Silence not only brings a mature incarnation of Mr. Plow‘s sound — something they had over a decade ago — but a bit of an edge.

It’s absolutely true some of that might be my reading into the context of Waggoner and Cousins‘ work in Sanctus Bellum, which was more aggressive on the whole, but in listening to the screaming at the end of “Sigil,” or even the deeper-in-mix shouts toward the end of “Matchstick,” there would seem to be a chip on the band’s collective shoulder. To coincide with this is the (presumed) side A closer, “Shaolin Cowboy,” which may or may not be based on the comic of the same name. It’s the shortest inclusion on the album at 3:49 — side B’s finale, “Memento,” is likewise brief at 3:56; “Matchstick” is the longest at 6:39 — and a dead-ahead uptempo rocker that seems to nod at Helmet in some of its start-stop riffing, but is nonetheless a rousing and catchy heavy rocker in line with some of Mr. Plow‘s older work.

mr plow

Accordingly, it fits well between “Matchstick” and the subsequent “Johnny Gentle,” with a half-time drum progression under a duly large-sounding riff and a title presumably nodding to the Infinite Jest character rather than the one-time Liverpool singer who toured with what would become The Beatles. “Johnny Gentle” has a slower, doomier roll to its rhythm and is more patient especially than “Shaolin Cowboy” before it, and that helps set up the title-track as well, which starts off gradually with guitars spacing out over solid bass and drum movements before easing its way into a fuzzy groove and the initial chorus.

Maintain Radio Silence, with its mix of elements new and old, is well summarized by the song that shares its name, which has some more aggressive push but an overarching sense of restraint and keeps composition first. One might expect “Hammer Smashed Face” to operate in the opposite manner, but it stays consistent. More upbeat than either of the two before, it acts as a bridge to “Memento” at the end and offers a dead-on hook that’s ultimately one of many throughout the record but a standout all the same. Hard not to get the line “My fellow man’s an asshole” stuck in your head.

And whether or not it’s intended to callback to the 2000 film of the same name, “Memento” caps the album with another straight-ahead heavy rocking groove that also works in some of the earlier aggro tendencies in Waggoner‘s vocals atop a winding lead line and weighted low end from Green. It might be as heavy as they get on Maintain Radio Silence, but I’d have to put it on a scale next to “Johnny Gentle” to be sure, and, well, that’s just silly. What matters more is that as “Memento” rounds out with a vigilant final push, Mr. Plow make their return plain to hear and show with no question they had more to say when they seemed to fade out those many years ago.

At the same time, one of the most crucial elements at work across Maintain Radio Silence that the band maintained from their original run is an utter lack of pretense. I don’t think Mr. Plow reunited in order to go on tour and play 150 or 200 shows a year. I don’t think they got back because someone offered them a ton of money to play a fest or something like that. I think it had been a while and they enjoy creating and playing music together. I don’t know what the future holds for Mr. Plow and with 12 years between their third and fourth outings, I won’t dare to predict when/if a fifth might arrive, but if anything could be carried over from their past, it’s clearly their passion for what they do, and with that as their motivating force, there’s no telling what might be next.

Mr. Plow website

Mr. Plow on Thee Facebooks

Mr. Plow on Instagram

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Twitter

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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Mr. Plow Sign to Ripple Music; Maintain Radio Silence Due this Summer

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

At the risk of being totally honest with you, this one just warms my heart. First announced here last May prior to being recorded in the Fall, the first Mr. Plow album in more than a decade, Maintain Radio Silence, has now been confirmed for issue this this Summer via Ripple Music. As label honcho Todd Severin professes to be below, I also am a longtime Mr. Plow fan, and even in the early going of this site bemoaned the fact that it had been so long since they had a release out. At that point I think it had been three years. Little did I know.

Maintain Radio Silence was originally set for independent issue this month, but for those who know enough to have been waiting, a little more wait doesn’t seem like the worst, especially with Ripple being certainly likely to get it to more ears than it might hit otherwise. Either way, here’s to being radio silent no longer.

Long live Mr. Plow.

From the PR wire:

mr plow photo grooverock photography

Mr. Plow sign with Ripple Music

Stoner metal band MR. PLOW have signed with Ripple Music. The influential music label will release the band’s new album Maintain Radio Silence on vinyl, CD and digital formats this summer.

Label founder Todd Severin commented “I’ve been a huge fan of Mr Plow since their early days and I personally have all their albums in my collection, so it was a no-brainer to ask the lads to join the Ripple family. The new album is better than anything I’ve ever heard from them before and will definitely open up new ears and eyes in the stoner/doom community.”

Bassist Greg Green also commented “I think I can speak for the entire band when I say that we’re super pumped about signing with Ripple. Ripple is the only label that we ever talked about working with once we decided that this album needs more exposure than we could ever hope to give it releasing it on our own. And we’re in good company–the entire Ripple roster rocks.”

About Mr. Plow:

Mr. Plow formed in 1997 when Kyuss and Fu Manchu were blowing out speakers in car systems across the land. When the term “stonerrock” was joining the lexicon for music writers who needed a category for riff-based rock that was tuned down and turned up. The band were influenced heavily by the times, but sought a different direction lyrically–instead of dark and evil, they went for pop-culture references and hooky riffs. Mr. Plow was way less about skulls and satanic imagery, and way more about good times that would be the soundtrack for summer trips to the beach or skatepark.

Mr. Plow is:
Justin Waggoner: guitar/vocals
Jeremy Stone: guitar/vocals
Greg Green: bass
Cory Cousins: drums

http://mrplow.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Mr.PlowRock/
https://www.instagram.com/mrplowrock/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://twitter.com/RippleMusic
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Mr. Plow, “Samizdat”

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Mr. Plow Announce Return and Plans for New Album Maintain Radio Silence

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Welcome back, Mr. Plow.

I always liked the Houston-based post-Fu Manchu heavy rockers, from whose lineup the likes of Sanctus Bellum and Blues Funeral at least in part sprang. Aside from the quality of their songwriting across their three records, 2000’s Head On, 2003’s Cock Fights and Pony Racin’ and 2006’s Kurt Vonnegut-themed Asteroid 25399, the charm of their references to Carlo Rossi, The Big Lebowski, and of course The Simpsons — among many others — went a long way in presenting a down-to-earth attitude that made it that much easier to relate to where they were coming from. Just a group of dudes having a good time playing cool tunes. Zero pretense.

Last time I wrote about them in more than an off-hand referential way was in 2009, so yeah, it’s been a minute, but Mr. Plow have announced they’re back and will hit the studio this September to record a new album, to be titled Maintain Radio Silence. Seems to me more likely it’ll be out in 2018 than 2017, but it’s one to watch for nonetheless, as these guys were always underrated as songwriters and after more than a decade, I’m intrigued to hear the glut of material they’ve apparently come up with and how it’s evolved from where they ended their initial run, which was some of their best work.

They posted the following on their website:

mr plow

Mr. Plow – Breaking Our Silence

Well, folks, it’s been a long time since we’ve recorded. Our last album, Asteroid 25399, was released in 2006. We then went into a long hiatus while I (Greg) moved to Florida for three years. But the time has come. We’ve now written 14(!) new tunes, and have been regularly playing more than half of them live. We’ve got studio time on the calendar for the last two weeks in September at Lucky Run studios in Houston, where our bandmate, Cory Cousins, recorded with his other band, Blues Funeral.

The title of the new album will be Maintain Radio Silence. It will be the first album with Cory on drums. Cory’s energy and musical inventiveness have given us renewed life and drive to rock. The new songs are clearly Plow songs but are also a clear evolution in our sound: shorter, punchier, and maybe heavier than anything we’ve done before. We’ve all been recording demos of ideas and sharing them back and forth, building the songs up before we even get together to work on them as a unit. And the ideas just keep coming. We’re talking about releasing this on vinyl as a double album. We’re also in the process of getting our first three albums on iTunes and Spotify and other streaming services.

I’ve never been more excited about the music we’re creating. Hope to see you at a show soon. The pic [above] is from our recent gig at Rudz with Ape Machine, Pyreship, and The Dirty Seeds.

Mr. Plow is:
Greg Green – Bass
Jeremy Stone – Guitar and Vocals
Cory Cousins – Drums
Justin Waggoner – Guitar and Vocals

http://mrplow.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Mr.PlowRock/

Mr. Plow, “Mexican Smoke” Live in 2011

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Where art Thou, Mr. Plow?

Posted in Buried Treasure, Features on May 12th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

The shot, the city, the van, the instruments. This picture in no way captures the personality of the band. It should be a shot of one of the dudes mowing the lawn, wiping sweat from his brow while the other three sit in Adirondack chairs sipping from jugs of Carlo Rossi sangria laughing. That's Mr. Plow. Not sure who shot this.Not to be confused with the comedic singer-songwriter of the same name, the Mr. Plow I’m thinking of hailed from Houston, Texas, released three albums and seemingly finished their run before ever getting signed or getting their due. Like so many bands over the better part of this decade, I first came across them online at the All That is Heavy store from StonerRock.com, browsing the recent arrivals.

At the time it was Mr. Plow‘s second album, Cock Fights and Pony Racin’. A record that showed love for The Big Lebowski (the chorus of “The Dude” contains the line, “Hey man, there’s a How could you not love this band?beverage here”), Carlo Rossi (“Ode to Carlo” — I’m not a fan but that’s hilarious anyway), Seinfeld (see “Festivus,” after the jump) and Lord of the Rings (closer “From the Mouth of Gandalf” is a seven part homage to The Fellowship); it practically commanded me to make the purchase.

It also made a strong argument in favor of picking up 2000 debut, Head On, which I did.

If memory serves — which it often doesn’t — that was late 2003 or early 2004. Unfortunately I wouldn’t find out about final album Asteroid 25399 until about a year after it came out. Not much of a hype machine for those unsigned bands.

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