Saustex Media, 2010
Reviewed by Kent Manthie
Austin, Texas’s Churchwood has recently released a full-length, eponymously titled CD.
When I pushed play and it started playing, I thought it sounded like Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) but instead of being a derivative of CB, Churchwood has their own, original-sounding style. On their MySpace page, they’re a self-described “bluesy” band, but there is much more to them than just a limiting one-word label.
In 2007, Bill Anderson, late of Meat Purveyors & Poison 13 decided to synergize white-blues-rock with that catch-all label, “alternative”, which I take as meaning independent, total control and no-compromising ballsy rock ‘n’ roll. Together with singer Joe Doerr, bassist Adam Kahan and Julien Petersen, former bassist for Brown Whornet, who, after joining Churchwood, got behind the drum kit.
Simultaneously, Bill and Adam are working on the music part of an adaptation for what is supposed to be a play derived from the indie classic “Speeding Motorcycle”, written and done originally by fractured genius, Daniel Johnston (Yo La Tengo also covered “Speeding Motorcycle” on their 1990 Fakebook release). That is a project to look forward in the near future.
As far as Churchwood is concerned, each song just seems to meld into the next; tunes such as “Pontiac Flanagan” and the irascible “Rimbaud Diddley” (get it?) get the disc going and set the tone for what’s to come. “Ulysses” is another winner – one that is very catchy and will have you tapping your toes to it. Once it’s over, it will stick in your head for some time. “Vendidi Fumar” (Selling Smokes, for you non-Italian speakers) is also worth your time and if you go to their MySpace page, MySpace.com/Churchwoodtx, you can watch a video of the band playing live, (from SXSW?) the song “Vendidi Fumar”, another “smoker” from the new disc.
Coincidentally, SXSW, the new music showcase that happens in Austin, annually, for about a week, just finished up a couple weeks ago and, coincidentally or not, Churchwood was there, among the throngs of new and upcoming artists/bands playing on multiple stages, giving their local cult-following, the curious as well as the vultures from corporate-fascist labels who do their utmost to suck the life out of bands.
But, it’s safe to say that the majority of bands that play SXSW are well-meaning, creative and clever songwriters who desperately want to be heard and if it takes a showcase such as this to do so, so be it.
As far as Churchwood goes, though: great band, great songwriting and catchy hooks; all ingredients for a sonic delight; indie or otherwise.