Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
Impulse compels me oddly enough to tell you that Grand Ole Party lead singer Kristin Gundred is a rattle snake, though she is one in reversible skin. It's been seen around these parts, with eyes, and it's been heard with the astute ears of a rabbit. This is, how we believe she works: rather than rubbing herself against jagged rocks to shake loose her old covering and revealing more of the same, in a fresh new scent - more Army green scales in the default hexagon pattern of tuxedo vests and man ties, this quiet bit of gorgeousness (her personality and that which she doesn't keep shuttered on the other side of the walls) dwells on the outside, with the slinky, forked tongue and the nested, hollow beads of the tail curled up inside and resting until needed. Not shy, but purposely reserved, Gundred would be fingered as the person least likely to show such blinding and daring fury to go along with this reckless, but verbose abandon that is the engine oil of the San Diego band's debut, Humanimals. The album is slightly like mercury, slightly like a bug zapper's enticing purple glow, slightly like a raging river and slightly like a wooden barstool being broken atop your head while you're pouring back a golden plug of drink - the drink you just might drown in.
Last week on NPR, there was a segment involving an elderly, but accomplished author, whose name has already escaped me. He was telling a tale about his hell-raising younger brother, who died at an early age, surprisingly not from having started smoking cigars at the age of three. There was an anecdote about gangrene infecting someone's leg - a result of some malpractice on his degenerate, chronically fucking up younger brother - which resulted in an amputation. The author and everyone who knew that the brother was to blame for the loss of the leg, vowed never to tell him of his tragic role, for fear that the guilt and sadness would cripple him and cause him to take his own life. They kept their promise and he never found out. The interviewer suggested how it seems that everyone has one small moment - in this case the tiny act that led to the infection - that could potentially change the entire complexity of a life and that seeing that as possible could be paralyzing, turning one frozen with indecision. The author calming replied, "But humans are animals. We have to move, always. We can't stay in one place." It strikes that though this line was not an influence for Grand Ole Party, the idea of never being able to sit still, for all of its unnatural feel is an alarming reality.
Gundred and her fellow assailants John Paul Labno and Michal Krechnyak create twisters and funnel clouds with their own hell-raising dirty blues, stirring up all of the dirt and clutter that may be lurking in the shadows of the house of the rising run. Gundred will likely always be linked with that nasty Yeah Yeah Yeahs/Karen O comparison (you've likely already seen it in every mention of the band), but she's more of the dark places that Jim Morrison went to when he got really drunk or really high and she's actually more of Eric Burdon of The Animals. She finds blackness everywhere she thinks, everywhere she looks. What a way to begin an album with the pit in young stomach, churning maelstrom of "Look Out Young Son," a proclamation of bristling roll calling. She explains who she is, where she comes from when she sings, "I must be the devil's daughter/What a dark father to dwell in me." It is one scuffed up, black-eyed statue that serves as her elevator speech - what do you do, who are you, you've got me captive for 30 seconds tops. These thoughts and sentiments are the propellers for the rolling, snarling, restless blowtorching that the band does on Humanimals. She fits the description of the devil that seems to be most likely so we believe her. Seems that he should be sitting at a long table eating in silence or a study surrounded by sharpened knives. He's more terrifying if he doesn't talk much off-duty and he's more threatening if he's of the blank expression. Gundred has it down. She can turn blood into ice and she can thrill with all of the wilderness that she sends from her mouth as smoke rings and fire.