The SPIDER BAGS fourth full-length album, Frozen Letter, may have just nabbed the award for best psychedelic-garage rock summer jam of 2014 (if such a thing even exists in these troubled times). A concise-but-concentrated dose of riffage that channels the spirit of both classic and even punk rock with just the right dash of wooziness at times; it’s a record that channels the chaotic spirit of such seminal works as Alex Chilton’s Like Flies on Sherbert to these ears.
Spider Bags were born in 2005, as a long-distance project between a few close friends who had known each other since their high school days in New Jersey – the group has endured numerous mutations and lineup shifts before settling into their current incarnation as a power trio with main Spider Bag, Dan McGee, as the constant in the equation along with Steve Oliva on bass and Rock Forbes on drums.
Frozen Letter represents a group pushing themselves into psychedelic territory, while still keeping one foot firmly rooted in the garage. Boasting a tight and kinetic sound with plenty of room for a variety of moods within its confines, it’s a platter that keeps the listener on its toes. While it’s an album that’s sound looks somewhat backwards, replete with its cover of John Wesley Coleman’s “Summer of ’79,” the ghosts of the modern world are obviously creeping in. “When you use an automated teller, you make the shop girl cry,” McGee sings in the delicate acoustic “Walking Bubble” – a track which kind of makes me imagine what DC Berman might sound like if he fronted The Seeds. From the snappy opener “Back Again With You Again In The World” with its lovely sax breakdown, to the slow, introspective tremolo sweeps of “Coffin Car,” which slowly builds outwards from inner darkness into a full band stomp, the band has a slew of moves up their sleeve.
Elsewhere, the almost Crazy Horse-like “We Got Problems” continues to address the existential discomfort of these or any other dark times with a few blistering guest guitar leads courtesy of Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan. Frozen Letter is an album that can appear deceptively simple on its surface, but repeat listening reveals the complex workings underneath. Frozen Letter is an album which documents a band both reaching outward and looking inward at the same time right down to x-rays of teeth and it works almost perfectly.
Start by listening below. The first press of the LP comes on RED wax – get one here! If you’re from Philly (or just feel like driving), catch the Bags this Wednesday @ Boot & Saddle with Philly-based punks NO OTHER and TYGATON – RSVP right here.
My Rating: SS
Genre/ Tags: Garage Rock, Psychedelic, Folk Rock, Alt-Country
Frozen Letter LP: Tracklist:
1.) Back With You Again in the World
2.) Japanese Vacation
3.) Chem Trails
4.) Summer of ’79
5.) Coffin Car
6.) Walking Bubble
7.) We Got Problems
8.) Eyes of Death
Shake My Head LP (Odessa)
Spider Bags Live in Philadelphia (09/21/12)
Papa Was a Shithead 7″ (Sophomore Lounge)
Take It Easy Tonite 7″ (Churchkey)
Hey Delinquents 7″ (Daggerman)
A Celebration of Hunger (Birdman)