Monday, November 28, 2011


The whole album is a work of art, from the hand silkscreened covers to the sea foam green of the vinyl. It is a stunning art object, and we have not even gotten to the music, which is excellent. This album is a “rock opera” about the Johnstown Flood. Caterpillar performed it in Johnstown this summer. It is not surprising that a rock band led by an archeologist would write a magnum opus to some historical disaster.

The Johnstown Flood or, as it was known locally, “The Great Flood,”
occurred May 28, 1889. Like other “natural disasters” the damage was made worse by human folly. “It'll Hold” seems to reference the dam that ultimately did not. There is a sort of swagger in the guitar line, with ominous undertones. This album is way jammier than previous efforts. It is obvious that a Neil Young and Crazy Horse influence weighs heavy on the tone. The slightly laid-back bass drum and bass stumble right under a current of prickly guitar showers of cosmic proportions. There is a bounciness in the heaviness, like a log hurtling down a flooded river.

The next jam is more dense. There is a voice, female; she is speaking German. The band is locked into one groove. You pick out the word “Philadelphia” from the German. When they performed this live once, they had Ms. Shannon Boweser read the corresponding English at the same time as the German for a hypnotic effect. She repeats “Johnstown,” again and again “Johnstown.”

The flip of the record starts with “Johnstown in the Flood.” It is a song about losing someone in the flood. “I was across town when I heard the dam would go.” This is Crazy Horse Caterpillar at its finest. The guitar solos are blistering. A frenetic frenzy of bent guitar chords and chugging bass and drums. “Momma said she is no good, one more gone my friend”. This is rageful sorrow. This is a masterpiece.

The next jam is channeling a more Spacemen 3 vibe. backwards drums and all. The guitar work on this record is great. Mike is the show boat but Dennis' skills should not be underestimated. John & Brenda are a couple and that is why the rhythm section is so literally tight. It is the sound of people’s lives being washed away.

The last jam has a hopeful vibe, despite the despair; it is called “After the Flood.” I love Mike's earnest unassuming vocals. He is the funniest archeologist you could ever hope to meet. The female vocal (not sure if it is Brenda) sounds beautiful. This is a beautiful coda to a classic album, belonging in the same canon as Neil Young's “Time Fades Away,” Spacemen 3’s “Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To,” Sonic Youth's “Bad Moon Rising” or even Bardo Pond's “Bufo Alvarius.” Classic. (Caterpillarlovesyou) (Dan Cohoon)