2.09.2010

Pierced Arrows - Descending Shadows


Pierced Arrows co-frontperson Fred Cole has some authentic rock pedigree. Through the 1960s, Fred was in a few different bands, including The Lords, The Weeds and Lollipop Shoppe, who each put out singles that made a little noise, as the industry people might say. You can still find some of those songs on various Nuggets releases and compilations. Fleeing the draft in the later part of that decade, Fred ended up in Portland, Oregon. There he met and married Toody Conner. Soon after they joined forces in a number of bands, including their longest-lived collaboration, Dead Moon, which put out 16 albums and a bunch of singles between 1987 and their dissolution in 2006. Their newest project, Pierced Arrows, continues along their old band's trajectory with Descending Shadows. They are still operating as a trio, but with Kelly Hallibuton now taking over the drumming duties that Andrew Loomis covered in Dead Moon.

"Raw" is the word that is supposed to be associated with this kind of music. It gains its credibility from its lack of pretension in production and an apparent stubbornness to ever sway with fashions of the time. On one hand, that argument is a cop-out that's been used by talentless hack throughout history. On the other hand, though, Fred and Toody were making this same kind of we-don't-give-a-fuck straight-up rock during various golden eras of tremendously shitty and overproduced music, as well as the various rennaissances that came before, between and after. And it's the continuity of the Coles' sound that makes this album what it is. If one has never heard their music before, Descending Shadows will strike them as amateurish and negligent towards matters of pitch and timing. However, a study of Dead Moon's catalog reveals their dedication to a one-take aesthetic that values the spontaneous documentation of a truthful emotional experience over anything that could ever be described as slick or radio-friendly.

All that said, as a pure listening experience, Descending Shadows might suffer a bit from that commitment to capturing performaces as they come, rather than laboring a little longer over nailing down a tight take, or one in which the vocal harmonies sync a bit better. Although Toody's voice still maintains much of the youthful confidence it's always displayed, Fred's hasn't fared so well. Over the years -- both he and Toody are over 60, with a handful of grandkids -- it has mellowed into a nasal whine reminiscent of David Thomas of Pere Ubu that frequently falters under the strain of his ambitions. I would encourage any reader to explore that back catalog of Dead Moon if you haven't already. It's full of many more examples of better executions of this style of punk-ish garage rock 'n' roll. After you've spent some time absorbing it, I don't doubt for a second that you'll appreciate this album tenfold more.

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