Give Up The Roast is a column that collides delicious caffeine with wild thrashing a la a bi-monthly coffee and punk album pairing — the perfect combination for perking you up during that midday slump. Here, columnist Shannon Shreibak investigates all of the notes, from fruit rinds and spices to perfect fifths smothered in grinding distortion. So come on all you coffee shop novelists, DIY freaks, and connoisseurs of fine taste — keep your mind here in the GUTR and catch a buzz with us.
Call me a shameless wanderluster, accuse me of feigning dissatisfaction, peg me with Shiny Red Ball Syndrome — my mind is constantly meandering to new places, real and imagined. My creative focus splays into artistic scattershot and my heart is constantly yearning for a thing that I cannot name. Sure, my synapses eventually tire after each day of toil and tedium, but it’s exactly what keeps me on the prowl for new tunes and brews to plague the world with. And bless you for continuing to follow me down this uncharted path.
This week’s GUTR is heavily inspired by my restlessness and the place that it usually leads me to: Portland, Oregon.
BEHIND THE CURTAIN (BACKGROUND)
Portland and I have had a bit of a will-we-won’t-we relationship these past few years. After visiting a handful of times, a nearly (hastily) accepted job offer and a few fizzled leads, it seemed that I would never be able to move to the land of cozy flannel and endless hiking trails.
While I may not be hunkering down on the side of Mount Hood or overlooking Lake Oswego, I can stake claim on Rip City through its coffee and music — two things that never fail me. As far as the city’s brews are concerned, few can contend with the hearty ‘n pure beans of Heart Coffee, a PNW bastion of caffeinated excellence. Few bands stand a chance of contending with the grandiosity of the roastery’s flavors and criminally flavorful intents, but proto-stoner rock quartet Red Fang goes toe-to-toe with ’em.
BRASS TACKS (THE COFFEE)
When scavenging for the caffeinated roots of Portland, Heart Coffee skims at the surface as one of the most sophisticated and dedicated roasters in the PNW. While all of Heart’s brews can hold their own against really any band, being or caffeine dependence on this green earth, Guatemala Santa Isabel balances the aural upheaval and latent humor of one of the city’s greatest sludge rock bands. Similar to Red Fang, Heart is unwavering and committed to an uncompromising vision. Red Fang opts for sludgy riffs dredged in Mastodon-esque vocals; Heart reigns with exceptionally robust beans and a brutally honest brew. Roll with me.
The strongest match for Red Fang’s behemoth sound is undoubtedly Guatemala Santa Isabel, which staunchly stands on a flavor profile boasting apricot, molasses and blackberry. In what could sludge into a murky battle of profiles, Heart balances out the notes by hitting high on the fruity elements and leveling out with molasses for a smooth finish. Red Fang flows in this same vein with its aggressive tête-à-tête between bloodboiling grooves and gnarly vocal yawps.
WHITE NOISE (THE MUSIC)
We’re goin’ right for the jugular with this installment of GUTR, and who better to sink our teeth into than Murder the Mountains, the sophomore release from glorious proto-stoner rockers Red Fang?
After a raucous debut with admittedly shoddy production quality that left plenty of frayed edges on the band’s beefy sound, the Portland quartet went ahead and declared all-out aural war on any other rock band that thought they could go toe-to-toe with the Melvins-worshipping, riff-slinging tokers. With nothing to lose and everything to prove, guitarist David Sullivan hammers out hooks that stick to you like stale beer, and John Sherman pounds out leadened drum fills.
The album cracks open with a chasm of trudger with “Malverde,” which showcases Bryan Giles gravelly, gargling vocals. For those hungry for some sloppy low-end, “Throw Up” will soundtrack your next kegler-filled Friday night for the next eternity or so. “Prehistoric” will whip you right out of any residual hangovers with the stiff-lipped refrain “time to kiss your ass goodbye” and whiskey-whipped guitar summoning circle pits.
The real bong banger on this LP, though, is the riffraff of “Wires.” Galloping through cock rock tropes with psychedelic riffs and roach roasting vocals in tow, the track is one of the most psychedelic songs that also makes you wanna stab skulls. The track, though intense as a stroll through hellfire, serves as a reacquaintance with the band’s trademark humor; a xylophone sieves through the bridge and chips away at the main guitar melodies, only to be overcome by a vertebrae-cracking riff that characterizes the entire album.
Red Fang is the toothy grin after getting clocked in the jaw, the inevitable guffaw after your board bites a little too hard on the curb. In a laughably broad sense, Red Fang is the soundtrack to the absurdity of life lived fast and loose. And that life is much better lived with one fist clenched in the air and another clutching a damn fine cup of coffee.
Column by Shannon Shreibak. Go forth and be loud with her on Twitter @ShannonShreibak.