The Christian Family
The Raw and Primitive Sound of The Christian Family LP
(Voodoo Rhythm Records)
With the success of bands like The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Death From Above and Japandroids in hand, making a guess about the probable sound of The Christian Family – another two-piece American band – seems like it should be simple: they’re going make liberal use of drums and guitar, factor the use of volume to create momentum and someone somewhere is going to say that they owe a lot to the original spirit of rock n’ roll. That both is and is not true because, really, there have been a few different sounds which contributed to the original spirit of rock; there was love and sex of course, but there was also a sense of personal and spiritual development which effectively issued the difference between Elvis Presley (the spirit and swagger) and Little Richard (the spiritual development). Most regularly, the revivals and revitalizations of of rock tend to swerve toward the swagger because it’s just easier to do, but the difference in The Raw and Primitive Sound of The Christian Family is both impressive and undeniable. Really, if one chooses to think about it long enough, there is logic in the sound – but it doesn’t register where or how one might expect. It might seem questionable because there is no piano in the music, but the real root and inspiration of this music feels like it’s set in the sound and spirit of Little Richard.
The difference between The Christian Family and their peer group of artists is perfectly self-evident from the second that “Who’s Gonna Catch Me” opens the A-side of The Raw and Primitive Sound of…. There, with handclaps providing the percussion, guitarist Brother Daniel just throws down a thick and kind of chunky bed of guitar (but only one – no overdubs) on top of which he and singer/drummer Sister Ann can lay down their vocal parts. Those vocal parts are simple and repetitive – as simple and unadorned as the percussion and guitar – and listeners will have no choice but to accept is precisely as it is. There’s no question that it’s good but, like the field recordings which were made and came out around the turn of the twentieth century, there is nowhere to hide in it or from it; so those listening will have to accept it completely or lift the needle and walk away. In this case, there is no halfway, it’s all or nothing.
With the precedent set by “Who’s Gonna Catch Me,” The Christian Family just keeps driving forward earnestly, as the album’s A-side progresses. “Mad-A-Lyn” keeps the sound stringy and lean but adds a slightly larger drum presence (think early White Stripes – when Meg was still developing a presence) while “Whatcha Got”manages to make a negative (it’s the weakest song on the side) into a positive by injecting a better-than-average sense of defiance into the mix, and the sudden addition of a few more overdubs on “You Gotta Luv” suddenly makes the movement feel less like a very good set of demos and more like a great first finished record. Of course, the movement forward represented by “You Gotta Luv” recedes a bit when the band returns to a more “anti-produced” sound for “Oh My Don’t Cry,” but then the running bounces right back into great form when “Time To Pray” comes along to close the A-side of the album. There, Brother Daniel’s scruffy, lean guitars take on the quality of a spiralling whirlwind with the help of some modest digital time delay effects, and lyrics which would be timeless in any rock era (see “When ol’ Satan’s knockin’ at your door/ Time to get yourself straight with the lord”) just seem to play fresh, new and hotter than hell, in this context. “Time To Pray” is, very simply, a flawless two-and-a-half minutes – and will have listeners aching for more as they rush to their turntables to flip the record over.
…And the B-side does better than just uphold the energy laid down by the A-side of The Raw and Primitive Sound of…, it surpasses it, completely. As soon as a stylus touches down and catches the groove, “He’s Comin’ Down” finds Sister Ann battering her kit like it owes her money, while Brother Dan comes startlingly close to finding a “down home” incarnation of Johnny Ramone’s wall of guitar. The result immediately pulls listeners right back to the highest, most energetic point on the album’s A-side, and holds them there through the fantastic trifecta of “Baby Wants More,” “I’ll Make You Cry” and “Tornado.”There is, very simply, no weak second among those three songs; the performance and presentation is flawless in each, and will leave listeners glowing brightly as “I Got Problems” comes along to dish some comparative irony and close out the album. The push through the B-side makes no mistake about its superiority to the A- in that it doesn’t require the introduction or ramp-up which was required to get the A-side rolling, and it actually manages to fly beautifully by the end – as it leaves listeners hungry and hoping to find more somehow as the needle lifts.
Stepping back and taking The Raw and Primitive Sound of The Christian Family as a whole into account, it’s impossible to not get and remain excited by what the band has introduced here. On this album, The Christian Family has both introduced themselves as well as presented exactly where they’ll likely go on future releases – and done it in such a way that those who run front-to-back with the album will be left with nothing but anticipation for another fresh serving, as soon as possible. [Bill Adams]
The Raw and Primitive Sound of The Christian Family LP is out now. Buy it here on the band’s bandcamp page.