A review of the EP released today by the New Orleans rock band.
Bantam Foxes (Friday, noon, Carnival) display a classic love of big, fuzzy, riffy electric guitars. On the band’s new four-song Loser EP, guitars are everything, from the Nirvana boogie of “(I Wanna Move to) Texas” to the big, chorded chorus in “Left for Dead,” which gets out of the way for a full-blown, squeal it out, distortion-laden solo. Sam McCabe’s inner Jack White got a work out, and in a time when guitar-driven, heavy rock ’n’ roll is hard to find, that’s something.
Surprisingly, what has come to seem like an old idea doesn’t sound old when Bantam Foxes play it. The dynamics of “(I Wanna Move to) Texas” are a little grungy, but the songs have some nice curves, such as McCabe’s two-note picking pattern for much of “Left for Dead.” It evokes country music without sounding like it, and the band moved the emphasis in the phrase so that it is clearly their own thing.
Those songs bookend the EP, and in between is perhaps the band’s poppiest song, “Secondhand Smoke”—complete with a cheery “ba pa baba baaa” melody—and “Rip,” which features a riff fueled by so much distortion that the guitar’s texture is its own reward. Throughout, McCabe, his brother Colin (a former My Spilt Milk intern), and drummer Jared Marcell have become a solid unit, so the songs have the impact that the guitar sound promises.
On Loser, the vocals are the most idiosyncratic element, slightly processed (I think) or mixed so that they’re of a piece with the guitar sounds. Both McCabes sing, and neither’s vocals stand out in a traditional way, sitting instead like another instrument in the mix. The songs have melody, but the melodies are often downplayed by their phrasing and sing/spoken deliveries. The band clearly pays a lot of attention to its sound, here adding an acoustic 12-string guitar on one song, a toy piano on another, and those efforts pay off. It would be interesting to hear what a more forthright vocal delivery would do for Bantam Foxes’ songs.