Just as you can seemingly connect every actor to Kevin Bacon within two or three steps (six degrees is far too many, mind you), you can connect just about any musician on the West Coast, or at least the Pacific Northwest, to the Murder City Devils. The spinoff bands alone are more than you can count on your hands — Dead Low Tide, Pretty Girls Make Graves, The John and Spencer Booze Explosion, Smoke and Smoke, just to name a few. Consider that former MCD guitarist Dann Gallucci is now a full-time member of Modest Mouse and you open an entirely new world of musical connections. But Gallucci has another new project that you can add to the lineup of post-MCD projects: A Gun Called Tension.
Unlike Dead Low Tide, Pretty Girls, Smoke or even Modest Mouse, AGCT isn’t exactly what you’d call a “rock” band. With co-conspirator Sean Reveron, who is better known for his work with Exodus 77 or The Beta Band, Gallucci is working to create something entirely unclassifiable and completely devoid of genre. It seems impossible, but from one song to the next, AGCT jumps from one sound to the next, paying no mind to convention or expectations. Put your iPod on Random and you’ll get something close to what A Gun Called Tension sounds like.
In the opening 90 seconds of “Hero,” the duo creates a dubby instrumental intro, while “Gold Fronts,” featuring Morgan Henderson of The Blood Brothers, mixes hip-hop and rock into a giant and strangely pretty rock anthem. “Interview” and “5+1” are more straightforward hip-hop tracks, the latter even approximating gangsta rap. “Treason” is the reason that a lot of people will pick up the record, as it sees The Murder City Devils reuniting for three minutes. This song, which may or may not be about the Presidential election of this past November, finds Spencer Moody shouting “turn, turn/turn up the volume/it’s gonna be a bad day,” while Reveron offers his own declaration of civil disobedience: “I won’t take part in my own assassination.”
Pretty Girls Make Graves’ vocalist Andrea Zollo offers backup vocals on the trip-hoppy electro track “Electric Chair,” though Reveron is still the star of the show, singing “I’m on a gray subway/going where,” sounding strangely like Faithless’ Sister Bliss. “Foundation” switches things up again, combining jungle and dancehall reggae, while “Thelonious” is absolutely eerie in its use of samples and throbbing bass. “Document” closes off the album (not counting the remix of “Thelonious” that comes afterward), mixing an Interpol-like rock melody with Reveron’s manic delivery.
There are few similarities between songs on A Gun Called Tension’s debut album. Maybe it’s meant to sound like a mix tape. Or maybe Reveron and Gallucci just don’t care to stick to one style. But it’s a dizzying experience that will leave you confused, but exhilarated. Though I’m quite a fan of Smoke and Smoke, this is by far the most adventurous thing any member of The Murder City Devils has done to date.
Gold Chains – Young Miss America
The Ruts – The Crack
Pretty Girls Make Graves – The New Romance
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.