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Know Your Product: Bad Liquor Pond, Radiant Transmission (MT6)

October 8, 2008

Bad Liquor Pond songs aren’t constructed for competitive speed or conceived as incredible displays of technical skill; rather, they’re built for sheer listener comfort. The Baltimore-based quartet’s songwriting template is strictly midtempo, like a casual cross-country trip astride a baked, easygoing dragon from some metalhead’s spray-painted Econovan-mural fantasies. Frontman/multi-instrumentalist Dave Gibson, guitarist Melvis Fargas, drummer Paul Fuller, and bassist Poridge Blackwell mine the same feathered chords again and again, sometimes adding new textures, blowing some guitar-solo smoke, or mashing an effects pedal until a given tune’s over and it’s time to move onto the next one. Rinse, lather, repeat, in a good way, mind you–check out the groovy-if-slightly-faint live tracks on to get a sense of what we mean. What sets Radiant Transmission apart from debut Year of the Clam, though, is the gradual introduction of sonic darkness into the overall air of mildly psychedelic good will.

Early on, the going’s fairly smooth. “Pain Killer” staggers along in Kurt Cobain-buried-in-Quaaludes sloth autopilot, an expanse of dazed guitars shrugging, Gibson’s discombobulated vocal seeming to echo back from the planet Neptune. “She Came in Heavy” hoedowns with banjo plunks, light handclaps, and harmonica honks that sound on the vocal-less choruses; the relatively sprightly “Sun Fingers” brings to mind Here Comes the Monolith’s “Dandelion Storm,” its crisp pacing injecting an unexpected liveliness into the proceedings. But before you’re quite ready for it, Bad Liquor Pond drifts a few fateful tokes over the line, and its muse wakes up baffled in a Spaceman 3/Dead Meadow catacomb. “Rolling Hills” lays the bummer-trip vibe thick by dealing in Laura Henry’s haunting backing vocals and thinning the elements down to indigo organs, funereal guitars, and the barest hint of percussion. Both “Skylab” and “Saccharine” foist scuzzball-pedal menace and distorted blues fuzz, primary melody riffage grinding yellow teeth while tangents blaze under the surfaces. Near silence accelerating into active-volcano molten lava splash, “Village of Kings” throws a bit more oomph and weight into its sludge-y growl. Midalbum downer slide or no–different strokes for different folks, of course–in Bad Liquor Pond’s realm. Transmission represents progress, and it’ll be interesting to see where they go from here. Given that Clam came out in January, we shouldn’t have too long to wait.

Bad Liquor Pond plays the Ottobar Thursday Oct. 2 with Thrushes and Glasvegas. 9 p.m. $10.