Bass Drum of Death’s music feels like a headbanging night of fun and questionable decisions. At its best, it satiates with the brevity and heft of the greatest punk rock. At its worst, it gets the band lumped into a box with similar artists such as the White Stripes, Wavves, and Ty Segall. Fortunately, these garage rockers refuse to be typecast—even when they nod to their rock ’n’ roll contemporaries or predecessors.
The story behind the Bass Drum of Death’s new fifth album, Say I Won’t, sounds like a double dog dare. Singer and bandleader John Barrett launched the project as a one-man band in Oxford, Mississippi, in 2008, playing both guitar and bass drum. He created the first two Bass Drum of Death albums on his own, bringing in a rotating cast of musicians for tours and occasional session work. But Say I Won’t is the project’s first album to be conceptualized and recorded with his current touring band, a three-piece featuring his younger brother, guitarist Jim Barrett, and drummer Eric Parisi.
That collaborative approach gave Barrett space to tackle various songwriting details, and it’s allowed the band to grow artistically while staying true to their “banger after banger” template. The record’s fresh melodies and whip-tight breakdowns make for a pretty good listen, and fans who have followed BDoD from their 2011 debut, GB City, will notice their evolution. The band have also returned to their first label, Oxford-based Fat Possum, and in that sense, Say I Won’t is a bit of a homecoming. Songs such as “Say Your Prayers” and “No Doubt” pack in great riffs and tight turns of phrase: “No time to shake it when I get this way / Wild-eyed and dangerous is the way I play,” Barrett sings on “No Doubt.” This is dusty, 70s-inspired rock with a chip on its shoulder—a soundtrack to whiskey-kissed nights and hangover-tormented mornings. And while Bass Drum are as vulnerable as any rockers to charges of relying on formula, they also sound like master students who still have room to grow.
Bass Drum of Death’s Say I Won’t is available through Bandcamp.