Friday Full-Length: RPG, Full Time

Some records are born and bred for shenanigans. Based out of Richmond, Virginia, the four-piece Southern heavy punkers RPG made their debut with 2004’s Full Time on Arclight Records, and with it they collected 13 tracks of straight-ahead anti-bullshit rowdiness, careening through boozy riffs and pub-fare vibes on their way to a seemingly inevitable crashout. Influences like The Stooges and MC5 go without saying, but their punk roots ran deeper than that. One imagines them at some point taking a stage alongside Zeke and absolutely leveling everything in their path, but RPG‘s Full Time isn’t just about speed, or a brash attitude. In two-minute cuts like “Clockin’ In” and the strutting “Crash Bam Boom” there are hooks that speak to a rock classicism that one finds manifest in bands like Roadsaw and The Brought Low. Come to think of it, how these guys didn’t wind up on Small Stone Records at the time is something of a mystery. Nothing against Arclight — they had some killer releases, including Amplified HeatCardinale and the first The Book of Knots record — but RPG would’ve been a more-than-decent fit as labelmates alongside the likes of Dixie Witch and The Glasspack, and it just never happened for whatever reason. Still, Full Time holds up remarkably well for the 14 years that have passed since its release, and whether it’s the opening shove of “Nazi Mindreader” or the unhinged workaday garage rock of “Untuck It,” the whole outing brims with an energy that’s almost too easy to read as a Friday-night tension blowoff; beers downed, riffs unleashed.

It’s the kind of party where, one way or another, somebody is losing their keys. Maybe they show up again, maybe they don’t. But screw it, that car was junk anyway, and when RPG kick into the start-stop tension of “Standstill Blues,” who’d want to go anywhere anyhow? Like all of the cuts surrounding on the 29-minute full-length — half-hour set put to tape; maybe a minute left to tune between songs if that’s your thing — “Standstill Blues” is short and sharp at about two and a half minutes. As it should, the shortest of the bunch, “Lose It” (1:27) — for which they also made a video — arrives as a burst of electroshock therapy next to the relative sprawl of the longest cut, “Paralyzed” (3:07), which takes a full 37 seconds before starting its first verse; an anomaly given much of what’s around it. Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Matt Conner, guitarist John Partin, drummer Mike Marunde and bassist Tony Brown (since replaced by Bunny Wells), the band hit the brakes a little bit on “Early ’72,” but “You Gotta Know” before it and “Ghetto Rose” after are ragers, the latter with a motor-ready tear-ass winding riff that’s here and gone before it even has time to show up on the radar gun. The rest of the record continues basically in form, somewhat malleable in tempo, but never veering from its rpg full timecentral purpose in the drunkard punkard, “Crash Bam Boom” capping with a blown-out insistence that’s a punch to the face even among its compatriot cuts, and “Can’t Get Any Sleep,” which boasts the line, “I cannot have the American dream/If I can’t get any sleep,” seems to say more than it even intends in terms of working class blues.

They cap with “20 Year Old Idiot,” which seems to compare whoever it’s about to an idiot 10 years their senior and judge them to be pretty much the same, and one last urge to motion in “Song of Evil,” as Conner‘s bullhorn-esque vocals and his scorching guitar lead seem to both be delivering the identical message — last call, folks. So be it. RPG have, by then, left the room with its ass thoroughly kicked — I imagine a basement venue somewhere in deep downtown Manhattan or, just maybe, The Continental with its shot specials and Bingo working the front door — and have made their point. Their rhythm and forward drive are straight out of classic punk, but their tones come from more of a heavy rock kind of place, like they grew up and decided to buy some better gear. Also to write songs. And whatever else Full Time does in leaving tire tracks across its listeners’ heads, it does have songs. The quality of RPG‘s material, of the guitar interplay between Conner and Partin, of not just the speed but the character of groove from Brown and Marunde, helps to keep it as relevant now as when it was released, if not more so, given the fact that, though a new audience generation has come up in the interim, that generation is now established in much the same way the prior one was by 2004 when RPG came along. I remember when Full Time first came out thinking it was a little more punk than I really wanted. I guess maybe I grew into it since then.

RPG put out long-players in 2008’s Worth the Weight and 2012’s High Loathsome, both of which had some longer songs — the opening track on the latter was over five minutes! — and a bit more of a stylistically dynamic approach, but that wasn’t really what Full Time was about. Full Time was and still is about getting in, smashing up the place, and getting back out again. There’s no pretense otherwise and there doesn’t need to be. It’s an exceptionally efficient delivery and for as much beer as the album seems to down, it’s remarkably clearheaded along its path. At least mostly. By their once-every-four-years pace, RPG are two years overdue for a fourth album and I’m not actually sure what their status is as their social medias hasn’t been updated since they celebrated their 15th anniversary with a Hardywood Park beer release in 2015 — the RPG IPA was a dark ale with 7 percent ABV that did pretty well in Beer Advocate — playing a show at the brewery in Richmond. If you were forcing me to guess what they’ve been up to since, I’d probably say, I don’t know, life? The kind of life that doesn’t require an update on Thee Facebooks?

Good for them, I suppose. Or hope. Either way, Full Time still holds up, and as always, I hope you enjoy.

Thanks for reading.

Rough week. Most of it was a blur, but a rough blur. The Patient Mrs., The Pecan, The Little Dog Dio and I left New Jersey yesterday afternoon to sit in traffic en route to Connecticut, and we won’t be back until at least probably Aug. 21. This coming week is Psycho Las Vegas and because the flight was booked super-early and I didn’t know we’d be staying in NJ basically the whole summer, I’m flying out of Boston. So we came here to stay for a couple days and then will head north in time for me to fly out on Thursday at like 6:40AM or whatever it is. Early. Not like I won’t be up, but still. That’s early for taking your shoes off at security and all that rigmarole.

Whatever. At the end of that process is Psycho Las Vegas, though I’ve no idea how to get from the airport to the hotel. I suck at that kind of thing. Planes land right on the strip now, right? “Uh, pilot? Please stop at the Hard Rock. Thanks.” Or maybe they have one of those buttons you push on the bus to request a stop. “Roll out the inflatable slide; this is where I get off.” I’ll sort it out. Or maybe I’ll get lost and wander off into the desert, never to be heard from again. If that happens, it’s been real.

Of course, with that massive festival ahead, that will dominate next week’s schedule, but there are news and videos and premieres and stuffs besides that need to get posted, so here’s a look at the subject-to-change-duh notes:

Mon.: Tour dates for Earth Ship & Rising presented by The Obelisk; Sons of Alpha Centauri video.
Tue.: Some review; Fuzz Forward video.
Wed.: Backwoods Payback video premiere/review; Son of the Morning video.
Thu: Spacetrucker album stream/review; Vision Éternel video.
Fri.: Psycho Las Vegas review
Sat.: Psycho Las Vegas review
Sun.: Psycho Las Vegas review
Mon.: Psycho Las Vegas review

Since I travel Monday, I’ll probably take Tuesday off if I can or use it to finish whatever I don’t of the review of Psycho Sunday. We’ll see. I’ll sort it all out. It’s my first time at Psycho, but hardly my first time covering a festival. I have no doubt it’ll be a good time and I’ll have plenty to say about it. Things like, “Vegas is a capitalist cesspool but golly I sure do like riffs and air conditioning!” Review over.

Well, it’s after six and the sun’s up, which means the baby will be soon as well, so I better punch out. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. If you’re going to Psycho, I’ll see you there — I’m the guy with the hippie pants and the cosmic backpack because I’m pushing 40 and just don’t care anymore about anything other than max comfort at any given time — and otherwise, I hope you enjoy the coverage if you get to check any of it out.

Thanks again for reading and please don’t forget the forum and radio stream.

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One Response to “Friday Full-Length: RPG, Full Time

  1. Dave says:

    Vegas is easy, just get off the plane, follow signs to the taxi, there’s a big line like an amusement park ride. The taxi people put you in a cab and off you go, never to be seen again. Hard Rock is close to the airport, should only be a few minutes ride. Have a great time.

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