Last year was not a particularly good period for The Harlequins, losing several friends to the scourge of heroin while dealing with the standard personal and professional travails that have plagued us all. You’d be hard-pressed to find the marks to prove it on the trio’s wild and wonderful new EP, Midwest Coast, which is being launched with a CD release show at this Friday’s latest MidPoint Indie Summer soiree on Fountain Square.
The follow-up to 2009’s well received Baron Von Headless, Midwest Coast is The Harlequins’ reverb-and-acid-washed mini-masterpiece, an epic cleverly disguised as half an album. The title track kicks off the EP, its introductory strains suggesting an Ennio Morricone spaghetti western soundtrack, but in a matter of seconds The Harlequins (vocalist/guitarist Mike Olive, bassist Alex Stenard, drummer Rob Stamler) jump the rails by imagining Robert Pollard influenced by the Beach Boys and writing for The Smiths. “Midwest Coast” shimmers with cliche-free Surf wizardry and sly lyrical humor and perfectly tees up the rest of the disc, from the scuffed Pavement-fronted-by-Morrissey majesty of “2010” to the GBV/Pernice Brothers shootout of “Nothing Important Happened Today.”
Midwest Coast might echo around in your skull cavern with such frequency that you could require a church-sanctioned exorcist to get The Harlequins out of your head, although it’s a fairly safe bet you won’t actually want that to happen.
Find out for yourself Friday at 8 p.m. when the Harlequins join the Pomegranates and OK Lindon for the next installment of MidPoint Indie Summer.
Suddenly, Tammy WhyNots
Kelly Thomas has absolutely no interest in the blow-dried twang Pop that passes for Country these days. Whether she’s loosening shingles with amps to 11 or breaking hearts at a whisper, everything she does is built on the solid rock of Hank Williams, the Carter Family and all that they inspired.
To that end, Thomas constantly surrounds herself with insanely talented people who share that mindset and the result is always as Country as hay bales and milk cows. Her latest aggregation, the cleverly dubbed Tammy WhyNots, is a full house of local Country goodness, as Thomas, Todd Lipscomb, David Rhodes Brown, John Schmidt, Sylvia Mitchell and Greg Schramm all combine to create an irresistible genre blend that is simultaneously traditional and contemporary.
That new-meets-classic-at-the-crossroads ethic is all over the group’s debut eight-song EP, Meet the Tammy WhyNots. The disc kicks off in high style with the jaunty lead track, “High Blood Pressure,” featuring an old-time soundtrack and lyrics detailing a newfangled health issue (“And I’ve got a big knot all balled in my neck/Yeah, it’s tighter than Bob Dylan’s band...”), which swings and sweats right into the equally high-stepping “Paper Kite,” featuring Brown’s unmistakable lead growl. Thomas and Brown do their version of George Jones and Tammy Wynette on the second-time-around duet of “Reheat the Burners,” leading to the classic Country weeper “Pushing Beds Together,” where Lipscomb and Thomas examine love that bridges the gap between separate sleeping accommodations.
Kelly Thomas doesn’t do Country, she is Country, and the Tammy WhyNots is just the latest example of her well-chosen direction; their collective talents will be on full display this Friday at the PBR Independence Day Throwdown at the Southgate House with Junior Brown, Chris Scruggs, Straw Boss, the Tillers, Theodore and Punkin Holler Boys for a whole house shindig that gets started at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Tickets for the 18-plus show are $20 in advance, $25 day of show.
CONTACT BRIAN BAKER: firstname.lastname@example.org