SAN DIEGO CITYBEAT
The Long and Short of It tear it up on new album
‘Burl’ lives up to its manly name
The Long and Short of It
In a funny bit of fortuitous irony, the release of Burl—the new album by post-hardcore badasses The Long and Short of It—happens to coincide with this year's San Diego Music Awards. For those who might not know the backstory, the band was mistakenly nominated last year for an EP titled "My Forever Book," which doesn't exist.
This year, the group may well be getting the jump on next year's awards, thanks to the mean 30 minutes of ass-kicking punk rock that they hammer out on Burl, their first new album in four years. True to its title, Burl is a tough and masculine arm-wrestling match of a record, stacked with blazing guitar riffs, hard-as-fuck rhythms and Ben Johnson's commanding growls, which lend the band a bit more metal cred—equal parts Lemmy Kilmeister and Ronnie James Dio (with a little bit of Ian Svenonious of The Nation of Ulysses).
Having made a name for themselves via near-legendary live shows and an affinity for all things loud, The Long and Short of It most likely aren't going to catchy anyone totally off guard withBurl. Don't mistake that for a criticism; they rock as hard as they ever have, and this album only helps cement their legacy as one of San Diego's most consistently intense rock groups. (You can see for yourself when the band plays a record-release show on Saturday, Oct. 11, atSoda Bar.)
No track on Burl is longer than four minutes, which makes each slab of gut-punching low end and abrasive fretwork as potent and efficient as possible, whether it's the dizzying Jesus Lizard-style chaos of "The Owl," the Sunset Strip glam thrash of "Storm Makers," the gate-storming thunder of "Beneath the Willow" or the two-chord beatdown of "Tongues."
Given how frequent the highlights are on Burl, it raises a kind of rock-crit existential question: If every song is a standout, are any of them standouts? That's heavy—just like The Long and Short of It.
San Diego CityBeat
Caw!: An Unkindness of Ravens (Black Rabbit Rebellion)8.2
Goes well with: The Jesus Lizard, Bad Brains, Dungeons & Dragons
I could spend this whole review discussing the balls-out awesomeness of “Last Transmission of Ghostship Raven,” the five-minute opening track on these local metallurgists’ new album. It’s a stifling blend of metal and hardcore, punctuated by Ben Johnson’s ungodly wail and guitarist Matt Strachota’s distorted riffage. If I were a UFC fighter and needed to get hyped-up to beat the shit outta some sucka, this would be the song I would listen to. Just ask my wall.But there are moments on Caw! that could certainly appeal to those outside of heavy-rock circles. Sure, it’s as hard as anything out there, but where most bands of their ilk stick to a formula passed down since the early ’80s, The LASOI drop the posturing and us-against-them prere (“A Brief Dissertation on Entertainment Law”), the apocalypse (“Turtle Island 2012”) and, naturally, werewolves and wormholes (“All That Shit’s Real”). And they do it all with surprisingly catchy results.
Truth is, LASOI’s fan base probably won’t expand beyond their core demographic. But make no mistake—they’ve made a small genre masterpiece that people outside of San Diego need to hear. “Is this thing on? / Are you receiving me?” Johnson screams on “Last Transmission.” Loud and clear, buddy.
Shut up and murder the mic
The Long And Short Of It are too ugly for pretension
“I'll punch Jimmy [Lavalle] right in the balls.”
So declares Brian Barrabee, bass player for local miscreants The Long and Short of It. It's a joke, of course. He and the man that is The Album Leaf have been friends for years, but it's reflective of both Barrabee's personality and his band's. A simple question about their live shows easily segues into a rant about the testicular swatting skills of Barrabee, who's confined to a wheelchair. It's like talking to a bunch of grown-ups who haven't lost touch with their inner pre-Ritalin, ADHD children.
Within the context of their music, this all makes sense. Just as they have a difficult time focusing on anything subjective, their music often comes across as a pastiche of aggressive rock forms including punk, prog, metal and '70s hard rock. Somehow it works, and it's due in no small part to their piss-and-vinegar live shows, during which, more often than not, they smoke the headliner.
“We wanna be a fierce, in-your-face band,” explains singer Ben Johnson, who onstage is known for Iggy Pop-like theatrics and has a voice that sounds like a cross between the Dead Kennedys' Jello Biafra and Bad Brains' HR.
The genesis began in the boys' self-described “college years” in Santa Cruz, where Johnson and his brother Tim bonded with Barrabee over their mutual love of all things guy: sci-fi, sports and aggro-rock.
After returning home, they each played in other bands, but it wasn't until Barrabee drunkenly recruited guitarist Matt Strachota (who also plays in San Diego's dirty-country outfit, Bartender's Bible) that they found a common ideal.
“[We wanted to be] what we'd want to see if we were at a show and didn't know anything about the band,” Johnson says. “More specifically-[The Long and Short of It is] tailored to our tastes.”
Even more specifically, he adds, “you know, fire, dragons and the like. Real things.”
And so after three years, two tours and countless local shows, The Long are finally releasing their debut album, Flight of the Mallard. Judging by its mathematical riffs, Johnson's surprisingly poignant lyrics, their work ethic and their “consciously image unconscious” looks (read: they're not exactly heartthrobs), you can tell that this is a band in it for the right reasons.
No talk, just rock. Hence their name.
“[We] don't think that, ”˜Dude, I'm in a band, so I'm killer,'” blasts Johnson as if he were already onstage. “Everybody's in a fucking band, man, so who cares. You can do whatever the fuck you want, but when it's time to get on stage, you rock your ass off. Get up and kick ass.”
The Long and Short of It play with Earthless and Red Fang at the Ken Club on Nov. 4. Call for time