Something better beginning
Once, long ago, I caught my sainted mum ordering a bunch of albums from a record club advertised in TV Guide. After looking over her list—Robert Goulet, Jerry Vale, Frank Sinatra, Mantovani—I decided that the sheer lack of anything that rocked was a crime against humanity. I whined, she relented, and then she offered me three albums out of 12. When they arrived a month later, I played the Byrds’ Fifth Dimension and the Yardbirds’ Over Under Sideways Down quite a bit. But the album that lived on my turntable and cut my 11-year-old soul to the quick was the Kinks’ Greatest Hits.
Even now, I’m thoroughly enamored with the Kinks’ music. There’s something otherworldly and existential about Ray Davies’ songs that transcends the 1960s beat-group genre, and the band’s early, Shel Talmy-produced sides have those cold winds of the North Sea blown through them in a way that period music by the Beatles and the Stones doesn’t.
So I get excited whenever a new band comes along that can convey that same feeling, and do it with good songs. We’ve had a couple of those bands locally. Deathray, which recently called it quits after two brilliant albums that few people outside of Sacramento heard, was as close to an American Kinks as one might get. And a promising newcomer is the Ancient Sons, which played last Saturday at the Javalounge.
Like the two bands that preceded them (the Polymers and Ghetto Moments), the Sons let their songs ride on tight harmonies, here delivered by Chris Teichman, who also plays guitar, and his brother Brad, who alternated on bass and drums, switching places for a few songs with Matt K. Shrugg. Those harmonies recalled the aforementioned Kinks and the early Who, along with something more unearthly, like old Pentecostal field recordings from the era of 78 rpm. Chris’ lead vocals have a bell-like, choirboy quality, which adds to the eerie vibe.
Instrumentally, the band has advanced quite a bit since last winter, when I first saw them. Shrugg—who also drums for, well, the Shruggs and (sadly, on hiatus) Th’ Losin Streaks, and also fronts the amazing Pizzas—provides a solid heartbeat behind the brothers Teichman, who previously were in the band Army of Trees. This night they were joined by guitarist David K. Aslanian, from Rock the Light, who played the entire set seated on the drum riser and, for the final three songs, keyboardist Matt Maxwell. Their din was impressive, but the real focal point was the harmony vocals and a pretty top-notch group of songs, which should show up on a CD sometime in the next few months. If you don’t mind very rough versions, there are four tunes posted at www.myspace.com/theancientsons.
Speaking of the Kinks, Old Ironsides has a pretty stellar lineup of local acts slated to honor that great band’s music on Sunday, August 19, with Hot Pistol, Baby Grand and others. Can’t wait.