Reviews – Yeah, I Carve Cheetah’s
For those of you who are not familiar with Restavrant (pronounced restaurant) they are a Texas born and bred, Los Angeles-based duo whose driving punk blues are laced with country, rock, techno and screaming vocals that are as unique as the music is infectious. Fans of deep blues and punk blues need read no further, you’ll find their new CD Yeah, I Carve Cheetahs one of your favorite releases for 2012.
For those of you still reading this; the driving percussion which is based on J State’s home made drum kit comprised of suitcase kick drum, Texas license plate high hat, old automotive rims and anything else he could find in his garage, kitchen and recycle bin (and is constantly evolving), provides a unique and intense sound. J plays or perhaps pummels this junkyard dog with a wild abandon which clangs, bangs and crashes and still manages to include almost melodic passages. The percussion, when teamed with Troy Murrah’s guitar which sounds a bit like the raunchy illicit love child of R.L. Burnside and George Thorogood, and the help of some well placed synthesizer, produces a sound and a sonic attack unlike much else.
This twelve track CD assaults you instantly with “Six Years” a stomp-driven tune that lets you know what you’re in for and gets your foot involuntarily involved right away. The second track, “Yes, I Guess,” takes you from frenzied slide guitar to drunken waltz and back again, dropping you into the punk blues of “Fight Myself,” in which I especially enjoy J State’s percussion when it sounds like everything in the back alley dumpster gets a good thrashing. The rocking dirty, droning hills-style guitar of “Wild Witch” and frantic rocking pace of “BEV D” keep the energy level meter pegged; if your foot isn’t stomping at this point, check with your doctor, you might be dead. The mood shifts for the title track which is more of an alt rock song but still laced with plenty of raunchy slide guitar and “Oakley Shades” which has a more of a techno beat to it. “Watch Me Drive” starts off as hard driving rock anthem and drives off into a blues jam that ends sounding like Brian Eno and Mississippi Fred McDowell dropped acid together, but it works. With “Lie O’ My Life” the deep blues vibe is back in a road house rocker that pulls you into the dirty guitar riffs of “Hey Dolly.” “Bad Moon,” the only cover on the CD, is close to unrecognizable from the original and I almost hesitate to call it a cover, it has a much more of a country blues flavor to it than Credence Clearwater Revivals’s original version. “See It Now,” with its alt folk rock feel and heavy use of synthesizer, didn’t at first seem to fit with the rest of the CD, but on further listening became a welcome draw down at the end. If the disc had ended the way it started, I would have had to sit in the silence still listening to the buzz angrily caroming around in my head.
So, to the more mainstream blues fans, approach this CD with an open mind; chances are you are in my age demographic, that we’ll call middle aged or so. There’s nothing here that isn’t already in your musical vocabulary, it may take you more than one listen to get into the groove, but you’ll be rewarded. I’ve found that this is true with most albums I’ve liked over the years; the ones that grow on you are the ones that continue to get play time.
And to the boys in the band and Keith down at Hillgrass Bluebilly Records, this has become one of my favorite drive time CD’s … I’ll be forwarding you the speeding tickets.
By Lee Jergensen
Los Angeles-based roots rock and electro trash duo Restavrant have created a visionary and positively indiosyncratic sound which involves both sides of the musical coin, so to speak. With bluesy slide guitar and countrified pickin’, gritty megaphone vocal delivery, harmonica, the layers provided by loop station programming, the catchy electric vibe of a keyboard, and the clank, tap and stomp of a junkyard drum kit, these two churn out something that is equal parts organic and mechanical, and equal parts rustic and urban. In nearly every way this is a combo that should not work, but somehow it does. It works remarkably well, in fact; so much so that Restavrant are now preparing to release the follow-up to their well-received 2008 debut Returns to the Tomb of Guiliano Medidici, at last. The upcoming album is titled Yeah, I Carve Cheetahs, of all things, and it is slated for a January 10, 2012 release from Hillgrass Bluebilly Records.
Yeah, I Carve Cheetahs finds Restavrant’s Troy Murrah and J State in the process of honing their highly experimental songcrafting even further, and thus surpassing the astonishing musical feats of their debut. Cheetahs has a bit more six-string fury and trashed-up energy, some stronger rhythms and bolder riffs, harder hitting beats, and increasingly intricate song structures in general than Returns. Out of the album’s twelve tracks, there are a few that I particularly appreciate, like “Six Years,” “Fight Myself,” “Bev D,” the title track “Yeah, I Carve Cheetahs,” “Oakley Shades,” and “Lie o’ My Life.” And of course there is the one cover song on the album, CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising,” a much covered tune, to be sure, but it is likely the most peculiar and daring version to date.
In Hillgrass Bluebilly Records’ press release on the album, they state that they are proud to “…unleash Restavrant’s second full length album Yeah, I Carve Cheetahsfor guaranteed heavy rotation on your various listening devices.” That was quite a prophetic statement; after all, the album has been in my player for the better part of two weeks, with only brief deviations to sample other newly acquired albums. But I keep returning to it, just as I imagine all of you who obtain copies of your own undoubtedly will.
Though they are currently residing in Los Angeles, California, Troy Murrah (guitar, banjo, harp, vocals) and J State (junk kit, other percussion, microKorg, and back-up vocals) hail from Victoria, Texas. Both locales are represented in Restavrant’s music in all of their differing points, from the Crossroads country and blues of Victoria to the melting pot music of Los Angeles. They have also played a number of gigs in both cities, and their wild sets, invariably followed by vigorous applause, have been highly appreciated by both audiences. And their albums, the content of which being all too similar to their live material, have also been met with the same level of appreciation.
Restavrant’s Yeah, I Carve Cheetahsis one of those rare follow-up albums that I find better than the one that came before it. And I, as a big fan of this duo, can only hope that this trend continues for future releases.
Incidentally, the boys have a handful of upcoming shows in support of Cheetahs. Most of the shows, to the disappointment of those fans who reside here on the east coast, are in the west. At a couple of the January shows, Restavrant will be sharing the bill with the side project of J.D. Wilkes of Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, The Dirt Daubers, and the Two Man Gentleman Band.
By James G. Carlson