Photo by Bruce Malone
Legend has it that Ross Golans grandmother, on her deathbed, clutched his hand and urged him to find Molehead. So four years ago, Chicago native Golan, then 20, began his bemused odyssey to L.A., where he and Bryan Head (whos also in Abandoned Pools) played a few shows as a duo before Heads buddy Billy Mohler (whos also played with Macy Gray, Smashing Pumpkins Jimmy Chamberlain and various jazz outfits) dropped in on a rehearsal, and the chemistry was instant. Voila: Mohler + Head = Molehead.
Golan had been going in circles in an L.A. band that contained, says the politics-obsessed singer/guitarist/lyricist, the best trend-chasers in the world. Then, disillusioned, I went back to writing almost exactly how Id started six years before. And once youre honest with how you play, you meet other people whore honest with how they play and how they write.
Its often when a band stops trying to court the industry that it starts spawning irresistible sounds, and the industry does the courting. (See the Darkness for details.) And with the new Reagan Baby titled long before the Great Communicators demise RG&M have birthed a muscular monster. The addictive and uplifting stomp of Move; the cunningly worded sarcasm of Dear Slim and Martha Stewart; the summer-evening breeze of Dont Wait; the speakeasy crooning of Gin Sippins little flab, and lashings of fab. Golans gently delivered rage crescendoes with the lonely loop and stark piano of MIA, detailing his frustration at U.S. administrations repeatedly arming our future enemies; in verses of garbled vitriol, Blinded by the Right, over a deceptively lazy lilt and ominous overdriven bass, reams the Patriot Act, Americas last election and our Middle East meddling. Yes, in an era when repeated banalities constitute lyrics, and an album with three decent songs is dubbed a classic, Ross Golan has too much to say for one record.
The band can be taken on a number of levels. While Golans lyrics are dense in political comment and actually name names (everyone from W. to Charlton to Martha feels the whip), but theres no shortage of humor and wacky wordplay. Or you can tune out the words altogether, highlighting RG&Ms acoustic-guitar-centered, massively grooving tunes: broad-reaching head-bobbers topped with Golans white-boy semi-rap, whichll connect with college stoners, urban hip-hopsters, Sublime-time surf-bums and thinking punkers. Reagan Babys last song is as compelling as the first, and the wide-open guitar progressions, groove-humping rhythm section and talked/rapped/sung vocals are genre-free.
As for the title, I was born in 1980, and Reagans entire administration is my first eight years, says Golan, a man with the deceptively cuddly bearing of a young Andy Kaufman. Im a Reagan baby.
Though RG&M have been brewing a mild buzz for some time, they remain almost a DIY affair. We did the album live, in three days no click track, no computers, just straight to tape, Head reveals.
It was supposed to be our demo, says Mohler, but it got out of hand!
Recording is only half the story. We like to play out for people, says Head. We want to see the whites of their eyes when were in the Deep South and they start throwing shit at us!
A man with a global vision, Golan is also a liberal Zionist. Hes not shy about his unfashionable attitude toward Israel: I dont necessarily agree with the domestic policy of Israel right now. However, I think the concept of Israel is just and logical. It makes sense that this is a land where Jews cannot be oppressed. Golans almost European worldview his great-grandparents fled the Russian pogroms at the turn of the 1900s, and his grandparents escaped Hitlers World War II Holocaust allows his lyrics to embrace Israels Six Day War, Cheney and Halliburtons hand-in-the-till, and Russias huge WWII losses, not to mention a plethora of American issues.
Golan is at his wits end with lyricists who keep social comment vague. Get sued, he pleads. But say something that people will talk about.
Ross Golan & Molehead finish a residency at the Key Club the next two Tuesdays, August 17 and 24.
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