Within the first thirty seconds of Dead Lines’ opening track, “Train Hands,” Fort Wayne rock band Slow Pokes encapsulate the last 45 years of rock n’ roll – from Troggs garage rock to Stooges punk and Chuck Berry “duck walk” exuberance. Zach Kerschner, singer/songwriter/bass slinger sings with a youthful vigor and a drunken ramble that keeps you listening long after the last note has faded. At times he sounds like a not-so British Alex Turner. Pierce Bucher, Ryan Lee and Charlie Simmonds fill out the rest of this ramshackle crew that’s part juke joint band, part indie jangle pop. ““Poor John Boogie” has a Bo Diddly meets The Modern Lovers vibe. You can almost see the drunks swaying on the stained dance floor. “My Home in Memphis” is another 12-bar blues stomper that puts the scent of stale beer, long lit cigarettes and your favorite gal’s cheap perfume in the air. “Sweet Dreams” is a straight-up jangle pop beauty, complete with background “oohs” and melancholy minor chord turns. In this excellent track with just the right balance of fun and melancholy, Kerschner brings to mind another Fort Wayne music staple, The Orange Opera’s Kevin Hambrick. “So Far Gone” has a Band vibe with Dylan-esque harmonica accompanying the waltz-time sway. Part country “sleepy time down South” vibe and part 70s Philly soul, this track shows the range these Fort Wayne rockers truly have. A song like “Bad Apple” is on the opposite end of the rock spectrum. It’s a gnarly, snarling rocker that would’ve sat comfortably on an album like Raw Power or Kick Out the Jams. “Another Culture” is another great track that brings to mind Mr. Hambrick and his citrus-y crew.
Slow Pokes are a breath of fresh air. They play transparent rock n’ roll. The chords, riffs, lyrics and boogie rhythms aren’t hiding behind anything. No light shows, no mission statements and no damn gimmicks – it’s pure, unadulterated, indie jangle. This is the kind of stuff that made us think bands like The Strokes and Kings of Leon might actually save rock n’ roll back in 2002. Sadly, we were sorely mistaken. But Slow Pokes? If Dead Lines is any indication, we may have found our saviors. They continue the tradition real deal garage rock and pop jangle that other local rock n’ roll stalwarts like The Orange Opera, Church Shoes, Illegitimate Sons and Vandolah began before them: serve the song, not the ego. You’d be hard pressed to find a better local rock n’ roll album released this year. Dead Lines is the real deal.
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A Christmas Carol
November 24 • Honeywell Center