If you’re looking for subtlety in your music—poetic and tender lyrics, intricate and feather-light instrumentation—The Grovelers are not the band for you. “When you wear your Sunday best / I tear you up and I eat your flesh,” sings bassist Lemonie Fresh on “Sicko,” the opening track to The Grovelers’ delightfully trashy debut full-length, Derelicts And Screw-Ups. “I’m alive / I’m alive / Mmm, mmm, baby we were made for each other.” For a song that features one of the protagonists luring the other into a van for some decidedly NSFL activities, that’s as close to poetry as you’re going to get.
Not that The Grovelers care much for pandering to the masses. Formed in 2013, the Milwaukee four-piece makes no bones about its un-trendy influences: rockabilly, punk, garage, trash. It’s the way the group mixes and refines those influences, however, that sets it apart from your typical beer-soaked bar band. Frontman Skip (yes, just “Skip”) alternates between Elvis croons, Joey Ramone hiccups, and straight-up howls on “Baby Come On.” “The Idle Devil” slinks along with a Doors-like groove (and contains the great line “Sometimes a penny for thoughts / Isn’t money well spent”). Both “No Place To Go” and “Last Chance Blues” feature unbelievably huge guitar sounds and terrific shout-along moments, while “Riverwest” chronicles yet another night of going out and hooking up. Lemonie Fresh returns to vocals for the winning “Southern Charm,” which adds a dash of Devo-esque jitter to the mix. All throughout, drummer Freight Train Dane and guitarist Graff (gotta love those names) create an alternately cacophonous and tightly wound wall of sound that frames the action.
And there’s plenty of it. Recorded by the ever-awesome Shane Hochstetler of Howl Street Recordings (with album art from Eric Von Munz), Derelicts And Screw-Ups is 12 tracks of perfectly calibrated, perfectly sleazy rock and roll. Looking for subtlety? Get in the van and look somewhere else.
The Grovelers will celebrate the release of Derelicts And Screw-Ups Saturday, July 18 at Riverwest Public House. The Rotten Tommys and Knuckleduster will play in support. Before then, listen to the entire album now, only at Milwaukee Record.