The Grovelers don’t mess with the formula. For the past seven years, the Milwaukee group has delivered album after album of greasy, grimy rock ‘n’ roll, all shot through with dashes of rockabilly, garage, and punk. For the band’s 2015 debut, Derelicts and Screw-Ups, we wrote: “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.”
But The Grovelers remain a band for us, and their latest record, Misplaced Cars And Blackouts (recorded in Silver City and mixed by Shane Olivo), may be their best yet.
Opener “Heartbreak Love Machine” sets the tone with a no-nonsense shit-kicker featuring vocalist Skip (yep, just Skip) and bassist Lemonie Fresh shouting out the song’s chorus/title. Guitarist Graff, meanwhile, tosses in some sun-scorched solos. “Rock Bottom” is an early album highlight, a fist-pumping anthem to, well, hitting rock bottom, complete with a Ramones-esque chant, some sleazy harmonica, and, yes, bagpipes. All throughout, drummer Dane Didier provides a pummeling beat worthy of a daylong hangover.
Cementing its status as a summer album, Misplaced Cars And Blackouts contains two sand-infused beach ditties: the hilariously titled “Ahhh Hey!” (featuring lead vocals from Lemonie Fresh), and the delightfully kitschy “Groveling Flamingo.” The latter is largely instrumental, but it does offer up some unintentional dance instructions for anyone interested in doing the Groveling Flamingo: “Puts both feet down and shuts one eye.” It’s a dance craze sweeping the nation!
Elsewhere, the stomping and strutting “More Time With You” proves to be the record’s heaviest track, while “Hot Mess” and “I Love Everything” find The Grovelers at their most frantic and flailing. But the band saves the best for last: “Another Day” and the nearly four-minute closer “Distance Between” mix things up (relatively speaking) for two of the group’s most dynamic songs yet. “I stare out at the faces in the crowd / Thoughts of one, their shouts a fading hum,” Skip howls in the latter. “It’s the ache I have to bear, it is the mask I have to wear / And I just wish you cared.”
It’s an unexpectedly poignant end to the album. Maybe The Grovelers are getting a taste for messing with the formula after all.
See The Grovelers live this summer at the Puddler’s Hall Block Party (July 30), on board the Vista King for a Milwaukee Boat Line Concert Cruise (August 19), and at Club Garibaldi’s Strummer Fest (August 20).
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