Friday, June 20, 2008


Make it Feel Better
The Diacon-Panthers is the finest thing the state of Tennessee has produced since the Grifters or, dare I say, Johnny Cash. Like the Grifters, it is hard to peel one’s jaw from the floor on first listen. Like Crappin’ You Negative, one will listen to this record five, ten, twenty times before bringing oneself to remove the disc from the CD player. I took a long time to write a review of this because anything I wrote pales in comparison with the greatness of this album. It is so stupefying-ly good all one can do is mumble “rad” or “fucking rocks”.

Days of Wonder” opens with thundering drums and a scorching guitar line. The intensity builds until the wonderfully, southern-ly slurred words of the vocalist come in. It does not matter if you can understand him or not; after a few listens you begin to (on their web site they offer to provide lyrics if you really, really, really, want them). The intensity of the music communicates the emotions behind the words.

The Actress” is stripped back and heartbreakingly lovely. An unadorned acoustic guitar and a wailing vocal are all this song needs, “Her manager does not recognize her part because she is not acting.” The Diacon-Panthers balance the full-on rockers with full-on crying-in-your-beer weepers (as my Grampy liked to call ‘em). This song is the latter.

Tennessee Dancing Nights” has the feel of a mid tempo upbeat Crazy Horse tune. It’s a good song to drink an ice cold beer to on a sweltering night in June. They say they spent a long time mixing the album, and it is in wonderful evidence on this song. The drums are in perfect clarity and balance with the guitar squalls.

I think the classic of the disc is “St. Anthony.” Once again the enigmatic vocals are there. But you can understand enough of them to get the point, “You can’t live on holy water, just like St. Anthony.” Not being a Catholic boy I have no idea who St. Anthony was, but they sing about him with a passion that make one want to find out.

”When it comes to the night” is another weeper. “When it comes to the night it gets a little worse.” It is good to sob in your pillow to when you have given up all possibility. “You are all around me; you are never beside me, You all around me, You never beside me.” Isn’t that always the way. “When it comes to the night, the stars just despair.” The aching wanting of unrequited desire is real -- it is almost uncomfortable in a totally good way.

On their website they make the suggestion one should drive at night on rural roads while blasting this record. I did that before I even read it; going 70 on a twisty two lane in quickly disappearing rural Pennsylvania countryside, while listening to “Midnight Black,” really can not be beat. “American Creature” has such a great southern twang. I would kill to listen to this song in a desolate bar on a jukebox somewhere in the deep-south, on a sweltering night, with the crickets humming and a cold glass of beer sweating.

If there was a summer record this is it. Push the gas to the floor, roll down the window, stick your hand out and blast “Minor Tiger” to the neighboring Semi as you pass them. It is guaranteed you will have a smile on your face. Remember the days when you thought that 25 was ancient? The youngsters in the Diacon-Panthers feel that way. “You’re 25… and I am 22.” How adorable.

Screecher” is not really that, but slowly strummed guitar and wonderfully drawled warbly lyrics -- that is until the full band kicks in. First with a distorted guitar and then pounding drums, it morphs into some deep-fried southern-style countrified funk. When the chorus kicks in you see how the song got its name. Pounding drums and weird electronics, screaming guitars, the song ends at a drop of hat. “Monster” has one my favorite lines on the whole album. “I smell wine, and expensive cheeses and another part of your profile. You can kill them with all this tonight.” I am a fan of expensive cheeses, especially stinky ones.

I do not think “Black Flag” is a tribute to the hardcore band with the same moniker. I could be wrong. The song starts off with a softly pounding bass drum, while guitar lines are scribbled as high pitched feedback wails. “I am a bad kid, I am a bad kid, and I am a bad man, get away, get away from me.”

This album is a stunning masterpiece for a band so young. It sounds like 1970’s country era Rolling Stones but more raw and raucous. The Grifters comparison is also fair because of their innate southernism and real feel for where Rock-n-Roll came from. These kids are going places. I felt the same way about My Morning Jacket when I saw them at the Blackbird, a small now-defunct club in Portland, six years ago. I just hope that the Diacon-Panthers are not corrupted by the hippies like My Morning Jacket has been. They have already created one of the best albums I have heard in years. If they stay true, these kids can achieve magnificent things.
(Borrowdeer) (Dan Cohoon)