I think this marks the first Garcia Peoples release that I haven’t seen take shape beforehand, but that speaks more to my own ability to get out in poisoned times than it does to the band’s predilection for forming albums on stage. However, all the hallmarks of building an album from jam fermentation still abound, and Dodging Dues sees the band harness their unique potency yet again. Nightcap at Wit’s End marked the end of an era for the band with the closure of the revered Upstate enclave Black Dirt Studios, the epicenter of their recording sessions for the past few years. This time they bring in Matt Sweeney (Chavez, Superwolf) as producer and confidant, toughening their sound into a gnarled and taut record at Brooklyn’s Strange Weather. Nightcap found the band fully embracing their prog spirit, chewing on Agitation Free and UK psych-folk, but this time they’re chewing on the ‘80s indie roots of Cosmic Americana, forgoing the ‘70s for a taste of SST-era thickness.
Like their contemporaries in The Heavy Lidders the band embraces a bit of the bristle of Up On The Sun-era Meat Puppets, but also their much lesser known labelmates Always August, finding a balance between the gravel and the sun. At this point though, Garcia Peoples are well past needing touchstones to define their sound, smelting an earthen choogle in their own cosmic forge. The A-side shows off the band’s stage roots, built largely around the trio of “Cold Dice > Tough Freaks > Stray Cats” that they used to introduce the album to the world last year. The seamless slide through these is cribbed from their work under the lights, but the band stretches on the second side and it’s here that they create some of the album’s most memorable moments.
Dodging Dues’ centerpiece is the expansive “Here We Are,” an eight-minute stunner that makes full use of the band’s entwined vocals. The song changes in the light like a mood ring, gorgeous and mercurial. That sidles nicely into the autumnal, sunset hues of “Cassandra,” a folk-flecked piece that proves they haven’t left their Fairport/Trees impulses from Nightcap behind completely. Laced with Gubler’s flute, the song streaks their catalog with an anglophile edge before they blow out the candles and burst back into the light of day for the albums’s knockdown closer. By now you’re either locked onto what the Garcias are doing or you’re left behind. The band proves yet again that they’re one of the most dynamic rock bands today and with a legend behind the boards, they’ve turned in another high water mark.
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