Album release: Damndest by the Ready Stance
Release date: May 21, 2012
In these days of gimmicky indie art projects, the Ready Stance’s time-honored sound is rare: just four guys in a room knocking out straight-up, folk-based rock, much as it could’ve been done in 1966.
The back story of Cincinnati band the Ready Stance qualifies as rock’n’roll fairy tale. Wes Pence, the creative force of revered early ’90s outfit Middlemarch recalls “I was walking home one night and happened to glance in the open window of a house on my block. Inside were a couple of guitars and on the walls some old show flyers from The Replacements and other bands I loved, which seemed really out of place for the neighbourhood. Then this guy walked out on the porch…”
That guy was lead vocalist and guitarist Chase Johnston - an Ohio native and a veteran of the Athens, Georgia music scene. An animated conversation between the two revealed an uncannily simpatico musical vision and still more shared touchstones: The Hold Steady, Big Star, VU, The Band, R.E.M., the Feelies. After some preliminary sessions, it wasn’t long before talk turned to forming a band. Pence recruited one of his old Middlemarch bandmates, drummer Eric Moreton, and music veteran Randy Cheek (The Libertines U.S, Ass Ponys) on bass and backing vocals and the new quartet started working up Pence’s backlog of tunes. In the guitarist’s basement studio, before even playing out, the four began recording Damndest, the Ready Stance’s astonishingly solid debut.
Much like the story of the band’s formation, the yarns in the album’s 11 tracks—all set to sweeping, melody-rich hooks, raw, ringing guitars, and driving rhythms—are rooted in fact and stranger than fiction; literate, image-laden observations with a penchant for classic, bent Midwestern arcana. There’s Steamship Moselle, the calliope-infused account of an 1838 maritime explosion that ends with an ill-fated minister found clutching a dry Bible; and Marathon, an amusing local legend concerning a confused fistfight between a speech-impaired gas station attendant and a customer with a similar affliction. More timely themes include Real America, a chord-crunching, poetic look at divisive politics and pundits who claim to represent the 'real' country.
Damndest is a also a simple story of a guy who had marginal success in music during the early 90s, then spent a couple of decades in the epicenter of US manufacturing (amid globalization and the disappearance of the entire US/Midwest manufacturing sector…) How does a Midwest industrialist cope with globalization and the decline of US manufacturing? By making the great American rock record, that’s how.
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