by Chris Davis
I don't hear 'my kind of music' very much anymore and I want to make it live again somehow even if it's through our admittedly limited means. I miss bands like Fugazi and Jesus Lizard. I like really hard rock and who makes it anymore? I can't get into nu-metal really. There are tons of bands who want to authentically replicate the sounds of hard rock from the 70's and 60's. Who is out there trying to create hard rock that's original and not just a nod to a foregone sound? Queens of the Stone Age maybe?... WHO ROCKS ANYMORE?
—Dragoon bassist Tripp Lamkins
It's tempting to start any review of Dragoon by saying something like, “Grifters fans who aren't paying attention to this band are missing out on a loud, crashing, chaotic echo from the past.” That would be an accurate enough introduction to the band's sound but it wouldn't really be fair. Former Grifters Tripp Lamkins and Stan Gallimore, who also make up Dragoon's expressive and always experimental rhythm section, have been playing together since they were in the 9th-grade. To no small degree The Grifters' sound was an extension of BOB, Lamkins and Gallimore's high school band. These guys have been working on a bass-driven fusion of prog, metal, punk and pop for decades.
“It's a conscious throwback to me and Stan's sound but it is absolutely not an attempt to sound like the Grifters,” Lamkins allows, describing his band's CD The Offending Party as his return to collaborative songwriting. “I love love love writing with Bobby as we are very much cut from the same cloth,” he adds, name-checking Dragoon frontman Bobby Matthews, formerly of the Little Rock/Washington D.C. Indie band Trusty.
Matthews brings a lot to The Offending Party but he's always been a Grifters fan and there are moments when he seems to be channeling Scott Taylor's pinched whine and Dave Shouse's cryptic rock-and-roll comic book poetry. This is especially true on songs like "Excuses, Excuses," a driving rocker that could pass for an outtake from So Happy Together or One Sock Missing.
Lamkins thinks there's another reason why The Offending Party may sound extra-Grifterly. “You haven't heard Stan rocking it hard in a long time,” he says. True enough, Gallimore has has suffered from tinnitus for years and until a recent change in treatment the loud noises he liked to make onstage caused incredible pain. “This was very much Stan's return to the rock,” Lamkins says. “So if Stan wants to beat the shit out of the kit then we encourage it.” On The Offending Party Gallimore, who has more than a little Ginger Baker in him and isn't afraid to crash the cymbals, does exactly that.
From the raw instrumental throb of "Push Pull" to the Improvisational swagger of "Impress Me" The Offending Party is a disc for those who like their rock hard, smart, and asymmetrical. At times it plays out like a less self-indulgent post-punk answer to "Industry"-era King Crimson minus the string section and the bird samples. At others it's full on Southern-style art rock played by a trio of alt-rock journeymen who know how to make an impression.
Dragoon plays Murphy's on Friday, June 11.