By now, Left Lane Cruiser have shed “best kept secret” status and moved into the national indie-garage-blues-rock-hyphenate cult’s embrace.
But don’t think for a second that constant touring in the States and abroad plus bushels of gushing reviews from the likes of PopMatters, Exclaim, Blender, and other national pubs have left Joe Evans and Brenn Beck jaded.
If anything, the Fort Wayne duo’s latest, Junkyard Speed Ball, indicates the exact opposite: these guys remain invigorated, charged up and ready to lay a two-piece musical beatdown on anybody — anywhere — who chooses to listen.
From the gritty, immediate production (courtesy Detroit’s Jim Diamond) to the greasy guitars to Beck’s signature thump, Junkyard Speed Ball thrives in its swampy sonic climes. It demands that you stop and listen. It tumbles out of the speakers with the momentum of a rusty pickup hurled off of a cliff. As soon as you hear the unrelenting kick drum, rolling snare and growling six-string that announce the opener, “Lost My Mind,” you know you’re in for either a great time or a bunch of rabbit punches to the gut (or both, if you like).
Evans’ slide work is slippery as always, as evidenced atop the rough shuffle of “Circus” and mutant Bo Diddley drive that carries “Weed Vodka.” These two have always excelled at directly injecting a healthy dose of 100-proof vibe into their tunes; Junkyard Speed Ball is no exception. In fact, one could argue that this is their most down-and-dirty effort yet ... and that’s very heartening.
“Cracker Barrel” pays homage to the ubiquitous joint – in LLC’s inimitable way – and forces that greasy deep-fried steak of a tune right down your gullet with measured fury. The punk element that’s always tinged the best LLC tunes is here in spades, but so are flashes of nuance and melancholy. “Pig Farm” and the single, “Giving Tree,” both add deft keyboard touches that serve to augment the songs and add emotional depth. “Shine” is both heavy and buoyant, showing off what Evans and Beck do best.
When you’re a drums/guitar duo, you know that shifting tempos are your friends. LLC prove it with the final two numbers. The smoldering “Road Again” is a slow-burn lament that’s earned from experience. Then, Beck adds coal to the runaway-train drums that immediately follow on the closer, “At the Denny’s.” It’s a high-energy ending to a very impressive album. It’s no accident that no less that two chain restaurants get name-checked here; no matter where you are on this album’s road, you won’t go home hungry. Catch the hometown record release show at the Brass Rail on March 18.