The Fellow Americans’ Search for Numb
www.thefellowamericans.com

By Ken Shimamoto
                       
All musicians’ stories are the same. The ones I like the best are about groups of people growing up together through music. While the Fellow Americans’ story ain’t exactly that way, it’s about something damn near like it.

The Fellow Americans are, of course, the remnants of the late, lamented Rio Grande Babies with the addition of frontman Jeff Price. The RGB were a floating crapgame founded in June 2000 by guitarist/consummate wiseass Matt Hickey and singer Ray Kadleck. Their previous band, Explosive Fertilizer (1995-1999), displayed what in this post-September 11th/Columbine/Virginia Tech era might be considered an unhealthy obsession with the Oklahoma City bombing.

Kadleck repeatedly drifted in an out of the RGB, as did a couple of other singers and a Spinal Tap-like procession of drummers. Besides Hickey, the only other regular RGB member was bassist Hal Welch, a veteran of the ‘80s metal wars who picked up his axe again after a nine-year hiatus to join the RGB at the end of 2000 and stuck around until Hickey folded the tent in early 2004. (RGB fun fact: One of those drummers was Ricky Chewning, who’s now one of the organizers of Fort Worth’s Jazz By the Boulevard fest.) When they regrouped with Price up front in 2005, drummer Caleb Dissmore was also on board. They’ve already self-released a couple of EPs, no parts of which (refreshingly) are reprised on Search for Numb.

It seems Hickey hasn’t lost his OK City/Terry McVeigh obsesh entahrly – the new disc’s on Big BOOM Records, the cover pic shows mask-wearing paramilitary dipshits (personally I blame the MC5 for this kind of thing), and the opening song leads off with the line, “Shake it up and watch it all explode.” Oh well, consistency’s some kind of virtue, I suppose, especially musically: these guys play as if Motorhead and the Stooges were the only other bands that ever existed (listening to the intro to “Woodstock,” I half expected them to rip into Ig ‘n’ the Asheton boyzzz’ “Little Doll”), meaning their sound’s short on “finesse,” long on relentless forward motion and brutal guitar grind – a good thing to these feedback-scorched ears. It’s like a more powerful, assured version of the RGB, or the Me-Thinks minus the Haltom City mythologizin’.

The red herring here is fresh-faced Jeff Price, whose kinda awkward stage trip and emo-ish delivery make him seem a little like a Dickensian waif fronting a mob of cutthroats in a live situation. The good news is that he’s a lot better integrated on this disc than he was in the one Fellow Americans performance I’ve witnessed. His clear, likable voice has a bit of a rasp when he pushes, and he can actually hit notes and articulate lyrics intelligibly, which ain’t always the case with Rawk vocalizers. At his best (as on “The Way You Try,” the title track, and “CBL”), Price comes across like Gang of Four’s Jon King: a callow yoof standing up on his hind legs and howling into an electric maelstrom.

Hearing Search for Numb makes me wanna see this band live again, which I suppose is the point. Also worth checking out: Joe and the Sonic Dirt from Madagascar (http://www.myspace.com/jatsdfm), a side project wherein auteur Hickey gets to indulge his other obsession, with John Lydon’s post-Pistols anti-rock aggro Public Image Ltd.). Making Rawk implode: a much healthier pastime than making things blow up, methinks.

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