These songs have killer guitar tones. That was the first thought that hit me when I popped local rock outfit Truman Sparks‘ new EP, The Gentle Laxative Demonstration, into my CD player. "Sysiphean Task" introduces the six-song release with majestic acoustic guitar strums over twinkling, fuzzy, electric arpeggios. The song rises, falls, fizzles and ferments, but unites itself with this recurring flourish. "Esophogalapagos" follows with a clean, off-kilter riff that summons forth hairy meanderings and lightning quick zips reminiscent of Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica. The sharp fuzz and frenetic arpeggiation continue on "Green Machine" and "Egglore, the Dragon Mummy," and a live recording of "Chronicles of TROG" shows that the band is just as kinetic in real time.
|Take a listen to "Egglore, The Dragon Mummy" by Truman Sparks:
Where’d all this singing come from? was my second thought. Truman Sparks crooned a fair amount on their 2006 debut album, but never like this. On "Task" Jon Bray’s and Adam Smith’s vocal parts spar with each other before crashing into sublime aural agreement. "Machines" combines catchy singing, boisterous shouts and eerie "oohs," and those same elements return on "Egglore," which whips around so quickly that it feels like the vocals might spin off into oblivion. The lyrics augment the singers’ vocal chops with lines like "It’s time to heal her bones/ Hold your breath if she starts/ Making the wrong tones."
Third thought: Wow, this EP is tight. Getting outside of straight up 4/4 rock ‘n’ roll rhythms has always been part of Truman Sparks’ style, but they’ve honed that tendency for complex cadences into an impressive musical force. Bassist Jon Hampton and drummer Ray Szwabowski can both propel songs at top speed and make quick thematic turns on a dime. Smith and Bray wail deftly, both vocally and on their guitars. And, while the band displays their epic potential on the nearly eight-minute "Chronicles" track, they also keep things energy-packed and punctual with "Task" and "Machines," which both clock in at around two-and-a-half minutes.
If it walks like a Trog, and it talks like a Trog…it’s Truman Sparks! The local rock innovators take their fictional characters and riffs to the next level on a new, limited-edition EP.
A remix of "Enters Trog," from the band’s debut album, concludes the EP with a dance club pulse and glittery, atmospheric melody, revealing yet another side of the band’s potential persona. The members of Truman Sparks have broad tastes and equally broad ambitions; this release suggests their trog rock sounds will keep pushing urgently into the future.