The last album I reviewed was the heartbreaking, ethereal, expertly-produced, full length debut from Annalibera, Nevermind I Love You. All those adjectives I used to describe it are absolutely correct and also will not be used to describe The Vahnevants’ Bum Out! That’s not a bad thing, but whereas Annalibera have floated out of the ether on a chariot made of dreams and driven by unicorns, The Vahnevants have sort of plowed their way onto the scene piloting a ’57 Chevy with mismatched doors and engine troubles. Both certainly make for memorable experiences.
The Vahnevants are veterans of the scene, maybe most notably with Deep Sleep Waltzing and Beati Paoli years back. But those familiar wouldn’t see a ton of similarities. The Vahnevants are a 50’s-early 60’s inspired garage band. They are a warbly, surf rock band that would also fit into rockabilly and even some old-fashioned country-western, only, I dunno, less clean. Not like, language or content, but they just feel like they’re covered in muck. They’re like The Everly Brothers if Phil had just completed a 12 hour shift as a bus driver then headed straight to the studio and Don got hit in the head with a rubber mallet just prior to recording.
Thing is, it works. “Motorcycle” is an excellent surf rock mostly instrumental (there is one word shouted occasionally; I will leave it up to you to figure out what the word is) that would do Dick Dale proud. “Amuck” and “Nobody” hit the right spots for those looking for a spot of blues mixed in their grime and I could totally see Marvin Berry singing “Whistling Tackle” instead of “Earth Angel” at the “Enchantment Under the Sea Dance”. The instrumentals are certainly there but the recording kinds of dulls their effect. While certainly lo-fi, the bare bones aesthetic is obviously very intentional and brings about this Bart Simpson playing “Polly Wolly Doodle” vibe to a group of obviously talented musicians. It is a unique take and yet, they pull it off.
Why I think it works is the same reason why I think Nevermind I Love You works: Sincerity. Sincerity doesn’t always mean taking yourself seriously, but it does mean believing in what you are doing. No, I don’t think The Vahnevants are some emotional powerhouse and we need to take everything they do to heart and really think about their art and what it all means. But they aren’t just screwing around either. They mean this and they believe this and whether it is high art or just super sincere shtick, it works.
Try Not To Miss Shows – 3/19 – 3/25
Des Moines: Hell Yes Showcase – 3/20 – E. 6th and Red River (Austin, TX) Starting at 12:30
Okay, so I know darn near everyone reading this probably isn’t going to make this show, but I just want to throw a quick highlight out there for people who may not know. Sonic Factory and the Des Moines Partnership have thrown together a showcase of Des Moines artists in a prime spot for SXSW. It is super cool that this is happening and I hope everyone who is playing becomes big stars, but at minimum it is a great lineup featuring Bonne Finken, The Maytags, Holy White Hounds, Gloom Balloon, MAIDS, Canby, Will Locker and more. Kudos to the Sonic Factory and the Partnership for putting together a stellar lineup and I hope this draws some eyes and ears towards what we in Des Moines have known about for years.
Annalibera w/M34N STR33T, Devin Frank’s Vanishing Blues Band and Ramona Mews – 3/20 – Vaudeville Mews 9pm
Annallibera w/ The Vahnevants, Nostromo and Men in Lead Masks – 3/22 – Vaudeville Mews 5pm
Two record release shows. Go buy the album. Go to both shows. Buy Bum Out! while you’re there, too.
Diamonds For Eyes w/The New Bodies, Ryan Lombard and Wrestling With Wolves – 3/21 – The Basement 930 PM
The last show for Diamonds For Eyes, who have been a favorite for a while. Also, you can grab their new 3-album retrospective that will be available and it will be like they never left.
Damon Dotson w/ Chad Elliot – 3/21 – Wooly’s – 9pm
Singer-songwriter Damon Dotson is releasing a new album, so hey, get this one, too. Wow, sorry for making you spend all of your money…