Album of the Day: The Gospel Truth, “Jealous Fires”

The Gospel Truth came up in the same fertile Austin garage-punk scene that birthed Roky Erickson and Gerard Cosloy’s Casual Victim Pile compilations. Yet despite some superficial links—they’re on Cosloy’s 12XU label, share a producer with Xetas and Spray Paint, and their guitarist sometimes drums for Golden Boys—this scorched-earth post-punk outfit bears very little resemblance to the average Nuggets-tripping, 6th Street-roaming garage group. The spit, snarl, and echo on their second full-length recalls the feral catharsis of the Birthday Party—there are, after all, plenty of bats to release in Austin.

This is the Gospel Truth’s second full-length album, following 2013’s A Lonely Man Does Foolish Things, and it increases the flow of chaotic, unhinged energy through tightly constructed rhythms. “Jealous Fires,” the opening track, is also the album’s best, with its rusty-knife guitar slashes and frenetic stabs of rapid bass. Patrick Travis wreaks terse chaos with six strings, bassist David Petro counterpunches violently from below, and drummer Brandon Crowe holds the whole thing in shape with crisp, dry rhythms. Mechanically precise—but also highly flammable—the cut clanks, jitters, and abrades, full of abrupt millisecond stops and starts, the kind that startle like jolts of electricity.

Over this racket, singer Mike Tonucci moans and howls, his voice shrouded in spooky reverb; he sounds a bit like Jim Morrison fronting Fire Engines. None of the album’s other tracks quite reach this apex, though the austere, staccato “Heaven Is Ugly” ratchets up the skeletal tension and “32” piles on a feverish, enraged jangle, a la the Nightingales. The album swerves briefly into the conventional with “You Don’t Want Us” and “Hunger Artist,” a pair of sludgy blues-rockers. But even there, flashes of energy and oddly-shaped guitar riffs rescue them from predictability.

Jennifer Kelly

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