The Golden Boys

Bursting with fierce, peeling twang, Austin’s Golden Boys are a garage band that actually jam in a garage, drink and mean it, and still reach the Texas cosmos. Dubbed “very cracked” by Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore and vet-critic Byron Coley in Arthur’s legendary Bull Tongue column, the quintet’s new Goodbye Country is more oversaturated than ever.

Lauded by the Village Voice, their hometown Austin Chronicle, and elsewhere, really, it just rocks, filled with sing-along choruses and grooves that transform drunken stumbles into defiant acts of gravityless elegance. There are Tom Waits junkyard grooves (“Wrong and Right”), and scream-abetted shout-outs to “children of the nighttime universe” (“The Box”). With guitars punched through watery Leslie cabinets (“Big Money”), boozy horns (“Mine you A Diamond”), and chaotic free jazz detonations (“Pharmacy”), the four-year old band channel the open-channel freedom of Albert Ayler just as much as the fragile freakdom of Austin forefather Roky Erickson.

Fueling themselves with collaboration, the Golden Boys find anchors in several talented songwriters: guitarists John Wesley Coleman, Matthew Hoopengardner, and Bryan Schmitz. Recording for the first time in a real studio–following 2005’s eponymous debut (recorded and mixed in a day) and 2007’s Whiskey Flower (recorded in keyboardist Nathan Arbeitman’s house)–the process remained characteristically laid back. If a track felt stiff, it was–for example–time to take a break, eat some fried chicken, drink some beer, drink some whiskey, and try again. To reproduce live: remove the studio, increase the amount of booze relative to the number of hours crammed in the van.

The sum total is a swirl of pure music that fits in a long tradition of Texas weirdness, from super-obscure small pressings by Billy Gibbons’ pre-ZZ Top outfit, the Moving Sidewalks (a staple in the aforementioned van) to beloved songwriter Townes Van Zandt to iconoclastic producer/arranger Lee Hazlewood to Bad Livers’ fiddler Ralph White (who played on Whiskey Flower).

“You can identify with the territory and the vibe of it,” says guitarist Coleman, whose book of poetry American Trashcan–published by Monofonus Press this year–pays tribute to Erickson, Roy Orbison, Richard Manuel, Robert Pollard, and others. “When it’s really hot here and you’re listening to Sir Douglas Quintet, or whatever, and you read the liner notes and they recorded it in the summer, some July, 30 years ago, and it’s the same temperature, same vibe, same food.”

Down where the Golden Boys are from, any way you cut it–drunk and swaying in the street and watching the constellations blur together milkily, riding the crest of a cosmic sonic wave manifested in a rich Hammond organ, or strumming an acoustic guitar on a back porch–the stars at night are big and bright, and the Golden Boys are aimed directly towards them, straight and true.

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