The Gavelbangers is described rather cryptically as “Ted Leo and Jeff Tweedy doing their best Led Zeppelin.” They’re not far off with that description. Even if they are a band of few words when it comes to descriptions, they certainly let the music do the talking for them.
Their 12-track debut entitled That’s How They Getcha opens with “Permanent Vacation.” An old-school vocal sample leads us into the track, and it features a woman chastising the kids of the day for listening to punk rock. Then a catchy power chord progression adopting a surf-rock style that bursts into the mix. I’d describe it as surf rock Led Zeppelin if there was influence there. The intervals of singing, guitar, singing, guitar remind me of Black Dog, most certainly, but The Gavelbangers have their own unique sound. It’s influenced by a lot of old-time classics, but there’s something immediate about the song. The vocals adopt a talk-singing style that’s got a lot of character and charm, though I was hoping for a little more variety with the singing during the choruses. Nonetheless, it’s a great track. I love the guitar noodling and the occasional solo thrown in for good measure. It’s all about the energy with this band, and they have bags of it.
"HIWYSI" is driven by a powerful riff, a throbbing beat and some much more melodic and powerful vocals. It feels like an Elvis Presley track of the modern age. There’s a lot of ferocity and guttural guitar driving the core of this song, but the vocals atop warble and sleekly sing onwards. It’s directly at the middle of the track that the vocals really take off (though I did like their sweet style towards the beginning). The singing turns into melodic screaming, and there’s so much raw passion in each word. The vocals really match the power of the instrumental for the first time on this album at this point. I really like the loud-quiet dynamic going on in this song. There are elements of surf rock yet again, and it’s certainly consistent with the sound The Gavelbangers paved out in the opener, but there’s a little more diversity here.
An ominous bass riff drives “Glowing Rectangles.” Little twangs of screeching lead guitar ring out in the distance, and a throbbing drum beat drives the song. Atop all of this, the lead vocalist sings passionately but smoothly. It works here because there’s variety in the singing, yet again. It picks up during the explosive choruses and starts to turn into a more powerful (yet melodic) yell. Still, the star of the show, as always, is the guitar. The frantic guitar solos which burst out of nowhere and never overstay their welcome always catch me by surprise. It’s impossible to keep up with them, and there’s definitely some fantastic playing at work there.
“Black Trash Bags” adopts a different style altogether. The frantic drums and guitars are still there, but this is a melancholic track. It’s driven by a minor-heavy chord progression and deeply sorrowful vocals. Still, the energy of the instrumental lifts the track up high and gives it a lot of power. The emotions come through and there’s certainly an immediate nature to the sound. It almost reminds of The Strokes (both vocally and instrumentally), which is a very different comparison to Led Zeppelin.
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