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Bass Drum of Death


It’s been a little more than a year since John Barrett and his punk band Bass Drum of Death put out their debut album—a year that took this kid from a sleepy Mississippi hometown (where the bars close at
midnight) and got him doing encores in front of 5,000 screaming Europeans and playing back-up band for Hodgy Beats and Left Brain of Odd Future on live TV. But no matter what, he always had new songs rattling around in his head, and when it was time to get them out, he did what he had to do—like sneak away from tour on an all-night detour to his home studio to start an emergency recording session, and then get back out on the road the very next afternoon. And that’s how he finished off his new self-titled album on Innovative Leisure.

2013’s self-titled Bass Drum of Death album is everything about 2011’s debut GB City amplified, in every sense of the word. With nothing but his inspiration and his instruments, Barrett spent the
fall of 2012 in his studio, smashing out punk rock. This time it was just him, lots of coffee, a Realistic reverb unit to give everything just a little of that stoned-in-outer-space and for the first time in Bass
Drum of Death history, a bass that he used on every new track. Why? Because why not, says Barrett: “I don’t ever wanna feel stuck, like,‘I can’t put bass on this because I didn’t do that before.’”

He wrote, re-wrote, played, re-played and recorded each of the songs and then took them out for vigorous testing: “My car has the worst sound system ever,” he says. “If I can get it to sound good in my car … that’s pretty good.” And then when he was thought he was finally finished with his album, he went to the bar to celebrate. Except there was one last riff he couldn’t get out of his head while he was nursing
his drink, so he raced home, did that out-of-nowhere song start to finish in three hours and made it back before last call. “Now,” he remembers thinking, “NOW I’m done!”

That grand finale was “Bad Reputation,” which is the first track on side B, he adds. After those first seconds of Wipers-style guitar hammering, the song explodes like something from the Pagans legendarily raw Pink Album—it’s got hooks, sure, but the kind of hooks that draw blood, and that’s Barrett’s specialty on this record. Opener “I Wanna Be Forgotten” comes roaring out at you with three big caveman chords and a chorus that sounds like something from the Leave Home-era Ramones, and from there it’s a bar brawl through the best and messiest parts of rock ‘n’ roll.

Ty Segall and Wavves might be the other wild animals exploring this kind of blown-apart pop, but Barrett’s connecting back to the source. When he makes a song kick in, you’ll hear the distant howls of first-gen punkers like the Testors or the Kids, rock ‘n’ roll
originators the Sonics and garage lunatics the Seeds and the Troggs. And when he slows down with “Faces In The Wind” or the awesomely grinding “No Demons,” you can almost see the classics of the past flapping by—Roky Erickson, Spacemen 3, Nirvana on their Bleached album and on their crazy import B-sides and even of course Black Sabbath, who probably showed Barrett exactly how you to drill your song into the center of a human skull. But that’s the long story. The short
story of Bass Drum of Death, says Barrett, is simple: “It’s just me in a room with a bunch of shit, wrestling with myself trying to figure out if it sounds good.” And after all that, don’t worry—it sounds good.