I've said it before, but let me repeat it once more: one of the best things I did in the last decade was sign into FAME as a critic. After 30 years writing mainly for assholes, and one or two fairly nice guys along the way, Big Dave Pyles gave me what I asked for: complete freedom to do as I damn well please, and from that—after departing the realm of progrock, avant-garde, outside jazz, and so on, sick to death of idiot publishers, editors, and fellow crits while strongly desiring to get back and re-invest my affinities for bluegrass, folk, and blues while never surrendering my imperishable love for outside fare—I soon came to the attention of a number of savvy PR people and was supplied musics that completely revivified my flagging spirit, musics precisely like The Bad Things' After the Inferno, stuff I would never have run across otherwise. So thanks Dave, all 'y'all PR peeps, and especially the musicians who have produced such wondrous fare for such thirsty ears as mine and the FAME readers'. Siiiiiigh!!
And The Bad Things are, well, uh…hmmm, lemme typify them in frontman Jimmy "The Pickpocket" Berg's own words:
"We've ventured into new musical styles, and all our lives have changed. We've lost loved ones, some of us had to quit drinking, and I've become a parent, so After the Inferno is aptly titled. It's a rebirth for us. We're going into a future that's not easily pigeonholed, and we prefer it that way."
He's not exaggerating. He and the lads have concocted a blend of folk, jazz, country, jug, cabaret, rough pop, Balkan, and God only knows what else to come up with a sound that would go exceedingly well with a number of my favorite groups in this bandwidth: The Carnivaleros, The Woes, The Asylum Street Spankers, and so on, groups in which the roots element is very strong but, just when it rears its beautifully odd Americana head, commences to slipping and sliding everywhichwhere and beyond. That's not a complaint, it's a deep compliment. Who the hell needs more chart music? Sure as hell not me.
Berg has one of those odd voices part stage presence, part nerd, part Dylan, part bad boy, but always strangely entertaining, and his ensemble is an aggregate of broken angels quite familiar with the mean streets but also mindful of the presence of redemption amid searing honesty and cynicism snarkily delivered. There's, thank God, a helluva lot of swearin', cussin', stump jumpin, and nasty grumpin' in After the Inferno, sets of mean-spirited lyrics, one verse after the other, cheek to jowl with a honky-tonk, terbacky-spittin', barn raisin', fuck-you-and-the-goat-you-rode-in-on spirit, all and sundry gritty, sly, and rambunctious. You'll hear 'Murrican, Mezzican, Balkan, klezmeric, and other refrains in the sextet's music strains, all nailed together in The Bad Things' iconoclastic perambulations.
This really is no-nonsense rousty music simultaneously pissed as hell while amused with itself, the result an unusually American amalgamation of everything Berg could lay his hands on, as long as it had rime and dust, an evocation of how the bread basket came to metropolis and then reversed the flow. It's as rednecky and dirt encrusted as 1950 and then as moderne as two minutes ago, finding ground that quakes and steams, roils and smokes, then discomforts, irritates, and bemuses, banjos, mandos, sousaphones, 'cordines, and various implements of elegant tomfoolery wailing away as you fret and fume, guffaw and lament, choke and chortle…and come away only wanting more.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles