The Shouting Matches
The members of The Shouting Matches don’t take themselves too seriously. They brand themselves as three grown-ass men, titled their debut album Grownass Man, and play no-frills blues with uncomplicated, playful lyrics. And given where the three band members come from, this directness is a refreshing change.
The band is made up of Justin Vernon, frontman of Bon Iver, Phil Cook from Megafaun and Brian Moen, the drummer in Peter Wolf Crier. On Grownass Man, grungy guitars replace the atmospheric synths heard in Bon Iver. Driving drumbeats and simple rhythms prevent the song from wandering off into 13-minute sound effects a la Megafaun. And the singing is unaltered, rarely escaping into nearly indecipherable, reverb soaked falsetto common to Peter Wolf Crier.
The album opens with “Avery Hill,” a two-and-a-half-minute swaying blues groove with Justin Vernon singing low and full of conviction. “Don’t you keep me in your favor,” he sings. “Don’t you give me no help.”
It’s hard to believe the vocals in “Heaven Knows” come from the same guy who sang about unrequited love in tender falsetto from a cabin in Wisconsin. This is floor stomping, grimy blues, with wailing harmonica and moaning vocals that would make The Black Keys jealous.
“New Theme” veers from the blues-drenched album, featuring a whirling organ, harmonizing vocals from Cook and Moen, and a poppy beat while on the mellow ballad “Gallup, NM,” which clocks in at over five minutes, Vernon returns to Bon Iver-esque vocals.
“I Need a Change,” a slow, smooth ballad, closes the album with Vernon shifting in and out of a low mutter and Marvin Gaye falsetto over Moen’s subdued, jazz-style drumming.
It isn’t the kind of song you’d expect if you mixed Peter Wolf Crier, Bon Iver and Megafaun. But this isn’t the kind of album you’d expect either.
And this unexpectedness — the direct, uncomplicated nature of three grown-ass men playing music stripped of effects or expectations — is what makes this a great listen.
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