Twentieth Century Chemical

Those Bastard Souls

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Twentieth Century Chemical Review

by Ned Raggett

The cryptic packaging and liner notes make Those Bastard Souls seem like a more complete band than they were at the time -- Dave Shouse is nowhere mentioned by name within, while the artwork is somewhere between an Impulse! CD reissue and garage/psych imagery. Shouse apparently recorded everything on the road, possibly with unnamed assistance; six separate studios in Europe and the U.S. are listed. Those familiar with the Grifters' blend of styles won't be too surprised by Shouse's way of working, but Those Bastard Souls have a different and distinct way around combinations. Shouse is as comfortable with crisply recorded and performed straight-up, bluesy garage rock ("These Things Will Slay You Every Time," with what can only be described as barrelhouse harpsichord) as with more off-kilter approaches. The snaky "Remembering Sophie Rhodes" is one of Chemical's best, the organ and driving feel seeming like a bit of classic rock liberated and made to live again. "Dirty Looks" blends the two sides well, with both an in-your-face delivery and string and keyboard touches floating around the steadily paced recording. The amusingly titled "! #*@#*! (I'm Takin' Off)" lets Shouse get his ya-yas out with force, thanks to the quick, bass-heavy rhythm and rock-out soloing. "Subterranean Death Ride Blues, Pt. 2" is a striking number, a piano and drum-led track with a queasy production quality -- there's something almost late Beatles about it without suggesting a full cloning. If there is any sort of Liverpudlian connection throughout Chemical, it's in Shouse's vocals, generally treated with a bit of echo and distortion, with a breathy, raspy quality that is both familiar and not easily pinned down -- a bit Lennon and Paul Westerberg all at once. If Guided by Voices had already claimed part of this sonic intersection for themselves, Shouse provides his own rootsier interpretation of such influence-blending, with great success.

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