Descending Shadows

The Pierced Arrows

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Descending Shadows Review

by Mark Deming

Like the man says, the more things change, the more they stay the sameā€¦or at least that's the way it seems to go with Fred and Toody Cole, the proud elder statesmen of garage punk. For close to 20 years, the Coles recorded and toured with Dead Moon, one of the toughest and most consistently powerful bands in underground rock, but in 2006, they pulled the plug on the group, and more than a few folks assumed that Fred (a grandfather who has been making records since 1966) was ready to retire. But thankfully, that wasn't in the cards, and after teaming up with drummer Kelly Halliburton, Fred and Toody are back in action with a new trio, Pierced Arrows, and the combo's second album, Descending Shadows, has more in common with Dead Moon than substantial differences. Fred Cole's guitar work is still sharp and elemental, his vocals remain an impassioned howl against a world that seems to conspire against all good things, Toody's singing is still a touch smoother and more sorrowful but just as emotionally edgy, and her bass work locks in tight with Halliburton's in a rhythm section that's an ideal fusion of frenzy and precision. From a songwriting perspective, Pierced Arrows feel a bit leaner, more deliberate, and more tuneful than one expected from Dead Moon (especially on the almost-ballad "This Time Around"), and the production is a shade cleaner and more refined, though this is still as no-frills as rock & roll gets these days. But the meat of the story is that after fronting one great band, Fred and Toody Cole are fronting another great band, and while Descending Shadows sounds like it preserves a live set rather than exploring the possibilities of the studio, it's a live set from a band that's tight, focused, righteously angry, and full of fire; this music is fierce and anthemic without ever sounding pretentious, and Pierced Arrows show that a few decades of experience can actually be good for you in punk rock, a welcome revelation in a genre that thrives on youthful snot.

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