As oversaturated and under-inspired as guitar-driven garage rock can be, particularly in an age when everybody's little brother has a cassette out on Burger Records, it's encouraging to know people are still inspired by loud, raucous rock ‘n' roll music. The mystique and romance of strumming away at power chords through a distortion pedal should have disappeared long ago, yet the appeal of a good, cathartic punk rock ripper never really wanes—at least not when it's done right.
The Shady Francos are one of many bands in San Diego that play rock ‘n' roll through a heavy filter of distortion and reverb, and by some measure, it's a raw and primitive sound. It's definitely not that far removed from old-school '70s punk rock, and for that matter, the '60s garage rock that preceded it. It's all about visceral energy and reckless abandon. And there's a lot of it to go around on new EP That's Gabe.
OK, maybe not a lot: The EP contains only four songs, and clocks in at less than 10 minutes long. But every second of those nine minutes and change is an invigorating blast to the eardrums, assaulting them with lo-fi hiss and analog fuzz until the tinnitus starts to set in. There's a slight undercurrent of surf rock to many of these tracks, but it's hard not to be reminded of contemporary hardcore acts like Ceremony on a song like opening track “Bones,” which roars and rattles with relentless forward momentum. You can dance to it, too, but not without taking the risk of bruising a rib or two.
The Shady Francos aren't, by any means, radically altering garage rock or reshaping the way we should hear it. It's simple, straightforward and aggressive—and pretty much bullshit free. So for those who have already grown weary of the abundance of garage bands in California, this might not be the key to conversion. That being said, they don't hold back; they're playing with soul and fire, and a knack for fun and immediate songs, and on That's Gabe, a little bit of intensity goes a long way.