Weedeater, Goliathan: Battered and Fried

weedeater-goliathan

For those who would be inclined to do so, there are really two ways to take on listening to Weedeater at this stage in their career. One can take a record like the 10-track/34-minute Goliathan, the fifth full-length of their 17-year tenure, first for Season of Mist and first with drummer Travis “T-Boogie” Owen, as a primer for the live experience. No doubt that’s where the hard-touring Wilmington, North Carolina, outfit has always made their primary impact both sonically and as a spectacle, guitarist Dave “Shep” Shepherd calmly oozing tone on one side of the and bassist/vocalist “Dixie” Dave Collins bugs out his eyes and lets loose both a wave of consuming low-end and a visceral rasp, stomping his foot, banging his head, pounding whiskey, and just maybe vomiting, all the while. One can listen to tracks like “Cain Enabler,” “Goliathan” and “Claw of the Sloth” and imagine the riots incited by the band, who’ve been on the road since long before anyone showed up to see them and have the presence to show for it, up to and including Owen‘s turned-sideways kit as part of the show. One can take Goliathan on that level and be stoked to see Weedeater the next time they roll through. I won’t argue against approaching the album that way. It works, it’s valid, and Steve Albini‘s production, as it did on 2011’s Jason… the Dragon (review here), rightly plays to the rawness of the band’s approach, obviously going for a “live” or at very least organic sound.

The other way to listen to Goliathan, however, is as the most forward-thinking album Weedeater have ever done. Yes, there’s a lot about it that remains intact from their past work. Collins still loves his puns, as “Battered and Fried,” “Cain Enabler” and the epilogue “Benaddiction” remind — the latter an answer to the introduction “Processional,” playing off the band’s Southern and/or Baptist roots — but there’s more going on than that and the expectation-meeting quota of swing (even with Owen in place of Keith Kirkum, this element remains) and vicious extremity of sludge. The opener and closer, for example. “Procession” leads the way into Goliathan with quiet keyboards and duly evangelical flourish of lap steel guitar, Collins adding a semi-spoken grunt of a verse to the mix, and while the progression itself, if it was transposed to full-blast guitar, bass and drums, would be right in Weedeater‘s familiar domain, the opener’s turn of arrangement sets up Goliathan‘s more adventurous approach. Jason… the Dragon had these turns as well, and much to its benefit, but Goliathan uses them more efficiently, and that goes for “Procession,” the spacey guitar minimalism of “Benaddiction,” “Battered and Fried”‘s swampy banjo twang. Even the penultimate “Reprise,” in revisiting the title-track’s steady roll, shows Weedeater with more of a clear head for songwriting and a full-album presentation than they’re often given credit for having, and add to that the speedy punkish weirdness of a song like “Bully,” of which the verses seem to be little more than taunts, and Goliathan becomes an even more nuanced experience.

weedeater (Photo by Scott Kinkade)

That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of bludgeoning as well, nor that said bludgeoning isn’t as righteous as any Weedeater have presented before. The vocals on “Cain Enabler” are near-painful to the ear for the permanent damage one imagines they might’ve caused Collins‘ vocal cords, and as the longest track at 5:25, “Claw of the Sloth” seethes and writhes with a brutality all the more prevalent for how readily the band seems to wield it, and whether it’s a more upbeat progression like that one, a mid-paced stomper like “Joseph (All Talk)” or the densely toned lurch of “Goliathan” itself, the central vibe of rural strangeness and otherworldly threat remain — monsters covered in mud, no help for miles. CollinsShepherd and Owen capture many of the aspects of Weedeater‘s sound that has made them the pivotal act within underground heavy they’ve become, but it also goes further than that and pushes not only beyond their earlier albums like their 2001 …And Justice for Y’All debut, 2002’s Sixteen Tons or their 2007 breakthrough, God Luck and Good Speed, but beyond what they accomplished on Jason… the Dragon as well. Perhaps most impressively of all, Goliathan reminds that when it comes to it, Weedeater are going to do whatever they want to do, as they did before their reputation came to precede them and as they no doubt would even if it didn’t. The record’s uncompromising nature just happens to find multiple modes of expression, and in that, the band deliver a work that, on whatever level one might want to take it on, proves worth the effort to do so.

Weedeater, “Cain Enabler”

Weedeater on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist

Tags: , , , , ,

5 Responses to “Weedeater, Goliathan: Battered and Fried”

  1. AZ Dave says:

    Wasn’t this album produced by Billy Anderson, not Albini?

  2. Stoom says:

    Says Albini on the sleeves notes. By the by, this is by far the best written review I have read for Goliathan. Good work, indeed, Sir.

  3. Mike H says:

    Little more venom in Dixie Dave’s vocals on this album. More pissed off than before (or the feeling is more focused). Where before it was about being heavy and high…now maybe you can add angry and drunk to the mix, pissed off at the very least. I can’t help but wonder listening to the album if there is one person in particular this is all directed at…I have my suspicions. T-Boogie is a solid addition to the band as well. Maybe even brings a little more focus while keeping the groove.

    The production credits in the linear notes of the CD I have go Steve Albini and Weedeater.

    Billy Anderson is thanked. Keko is as well and considering how bad things seemed to get at the end, that was a surprise to see…but maybe an act of goodwill.

    This album seems to be the next step in the very natural/organic progression of the band since their first album. I don’t see this band ever changing…just refining what they do. Listening to their complete discography in order (which I have a few times recently), it just makes sense. I think the vibe is heavy and genuine and the sound (production) is top notch.

    And despite someone’s online prediction Dixie would turn into a modern day Bob Dylan should Weedeater cease to exist…I’m more inclined to think Leonard Cohen or maybe even Tom waits.

Leave a Reply