Rotary Downs: Chained To The Chariot

By SuperDee

Big gun brigand the rumbling drum
I'm going to come down to run the slums with a slicer
Here I come in a crumbling chrysler
Shun the sun one thumb on the visor

These words open the new Rotary Downs album, Chained to the Chariot. What does it all mean? Does it really matter when you have "slicer" being rhymed with "chrysler" right out of the gates? Chained to the Chariot has way more than meets the ear. Although the words themselves do simply sound great together, this is not just a case of throwing together nonsensical language to create a flow of sounds with syllables. This becomes excruciatingly apparent when you hear the words "seven thirty-five in the morning / forty-five degrees in the heart / all the little kids on the corner / they're old enough to see in the dark."

I once read, "Words are blurred and bent by the music that swirls around them." The lyrics of Chained to the Chariot are presented in the liner notes with no punctuation, capital letters, or sentence structure. The words appear as a stream of consciousness, a dream that travels through your mind as you read. They are delivered in a similar fashion by the flat-toned vocals of resident genius, James Marler. Pavement and Malkmus fans are going to flip for Marler as his voice and his poetry are very reminiscent of the slacker-era indie-rock pioneers.

This flurry of vivid imagery is supported by simple yet strong melodies and riffs from the band. Many of the tunes remind me of nursery rhyme songs, but there are twangs and minor progressions that create an almost spooky vibe. It's as if Jack 'n' Jill were going up the hill, but it's not to fetch a pail of water. This hint at the macabre lends perfectly to their connection to their home of New Orleans, one of the most beautifully mysterious places on our planet. Oh yeah, did I mention Rotary Downs is a New Orleans band? While they do not sound anything like the signature brass and Zydeco bands of the area, there are striking lyrical images throughout the album that connect Rotary Downs to their home. Your mind travels to the Big Easy as Marler sings "the big parade is pretty in the broken sunken city" in "Big Parade." Your heart aches when you hear "voices and faces become displaced turn into strangers" in "A Feast in Squalor."

This album comes three years after their last EP, The Quitters. Needless to say, these songs needed to be released onto the public at large as they no doubt have been in their live show rotation for years. But the time passed could only have been a positive thing for Chained to the Chariot as the songs are carefully crafted and the sound is pristine. There are precious sing-along moments as in "Sing Like the Sun" ("awwww sing like the sun, sing like a billy goat, sing like a tiger") and "B/W" ("who keeps knocking off my halo?"). We've even got an instrumental interlude, "Ma Lion Races Ruin," that summons the Crooked Rain in its casual fierceness. "Old Museum" brings a tongue-in-cheek playfulness with more cowbell (YES!) and fun twisty lyrics like "raunchy laundry sundays in the country." An image of a freaky ghost-infested playground is conjured as Marler sings "olly olly olly olly oxen free / when the sun comes up they're gonna murder me" in "Body of an Outlaw." Eek.

As with any great album, each spin will reveal some new knowledge. Get your hands on Chained to the Chariot in whatever format you like best [rhapsody | band website] and I think you'll find that it doesn't leave rotation for a long time.

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[Published on: 11/16/06]

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All Loving Liberal White Guy Thu 11/16/2006 11:02AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

All Loving Liberal White Guy

i've heard a lot about these guys but haven't gotten around to hearing them. if supe dee digs it, i'll give it a listen.

Ching Sun 11/19/2006 10:13AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Drumtographers ROCK....!!!!! I love Z dog...

mcmanust Mon 11/20/2006 09:01AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I sometimes hear little spencer krug too. What a great band, i love that slacker rock sound.

MaseBase starstarstarstarstar Tue 11/21/2006 05:54PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Dudes... I fuckin' love this album. It's on repeat - the entire thing is just real good.

Nookiebox starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/19/2007 07:18AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


'awwwww, sing the sun''s AWESOME-- Rotary Downs @ Bonnaroo!!!!