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Look, Ma, No Cheese

Pearls and Brass . The Indian Tower (Drag City)

T?he Indian Tower by Pearls and Brass has arrived to take the gold medal in Non-Cheesy Hard Rock: Rarely, if ever, does a contemporary band come along that delicately balances cock-rock with artistic experimentation this well.

Pearls and Brass, from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, paired up with the Fucking Champs’ Tim Green to record their second album (due out Tuesday). The Indian Tower gives off Classic vibes, which may be due in part to the band’s affinity for early metalheads like Cream and Iron Butterfly. They sound like a heavy, ’70s-ish Queens of the Stone Age (or Kyuss) who’ve studied the Groundhogs’ trip-out sessions. Thirteen years of jamming has finally paid off.

The CD opens with “The Tower” (how’s that for a Zeppelinesque title?), replete with medieval chanting, Black Sabbath–style, just before cranking up the amps. Later on, “I Learn the Hard Way” recalls Zeppelin’s “Going to California” with its early blues-influenced guitar picking. Pearls and Brass can also be deeply groovy, as in “The Face of God.” (Now, that’s a hard song title to live up to.) It’s not perfect, though: Mid-album, on “The Mirror,” Randy Huth’s vocals sound too much like Chris Cornell or, I hate to say it, Eddie Vedder (why do guys fall prey to that melodramatic singing style?). But the rest of the record has enough creative riffing subverted by weird side-jams and variations on the typical 4/4 drumbeat to make this an inspiring listen. And the first four tracks alone, from “The Tower” through “Black Rock Man,” make The Indian Tower an essential CD; it’s unpredictable, rowdy and severe. The band’s authenticity makes me want to hear Mudhoney again.