Friday, December 1

Track Review: Centro-Matic

“Calling Thermatico”
from “Fort Recovery”

I had kind of grown out of my electric guitar-based indie rock phase, thinking that one could only do so much with a certain approach, and that any four-piece group with chord-based songs and little to no knack for experimentation was destined to repeat not only itself but the myriad of similar bands that preceded it.

Centro-matic has turned me into a believer again. Their latest release, “Fort Recovery” is nothing I haven’t heard before—that same gritty two-guitar approach and pocket drumming is all too familiar. Even Will Johnson’s honest vocals have been done before. But this, in fact, is what makes Centro-matic such a refreshing listen: they’re only doing what’s been done before, but they’ve managed to make it sound new, exciting, and above all, something worth listening to numerous times.

And speaking of numerous times, no song on “Fort Recovery” has seen more plays on my iTunes than “Calling Thermatico”. What always strikes me first (and this is not a common thing to be struck with, trust me) is the incendiary guitar tone. Both axes sound like they’re on the brink of totally crumbling, blurting out bass-heavy growls but somehow forming a tight groove that’s hardly devoid of melody or character.

The lyrics are kind of nonsense at times (“We’re calling Thermatico / ‘cause he may have options / within the sequence / to which we abide / ‘cause under the railway / he left colossal papers / and medicines to keep us alive”… what does that even mean? Anyone? Anyone?), but the lyrics are never really the point; it’s all about Johnson’s Tweedy-esque delivery and its accompanying melody. It spot on and smooth, quieting and opening up at exactly the right moments, giving the song’s dirty groove an alternating sense of suffocation and relieved respiration and thus, life.

But the real clincher here is the song’s final minute. The drums kick in with a sixteenth note rim groove and the guitars quiet to fade, all while Johnson’s falsetto stretches comfortably across a bed of nails. It’s slow-motion and fleeting at the same time, holding your attention the entire time but still feeling no longer than a few seconds when the last cymbal hits disappear from the mix and Johnson’s quiet behind the mic, content to know that stripping down the song simultaneously leaves the listener wanting more, and relishing it all the while.

Centro-Matic - Calling Thermatico

- Dominick Duhamel -

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