After recently poring over the year's local albums to choose a set of favorites -- all while trying to acknowledge the many types of music created in Madison -- I was left feeling a bit fatigued. To scorch the ennui from my worn-out musical receptors, I've been trying out Barb's Trailer, a short EP from Fire Retarded, a new local trio with an unfortunate name but a good background. On this recording, the band uses a bare-bones model: stuffing a lot of garage-rock volume and thwacking cowpunk rhythm into tight confines.
Guitarist and singer Tyler Fassnacht took a melodic, thoughtful approach to power-pop in the recently disbanded Giant People, but he leads Fire Retarded with a high-pitched scream that is smudged and slurred by the EP's production values. He brings a ragged sense of melody to the track "Locks & Looks."
Said melody may just be a couple of figures pounded home over and over again, but sometimes that's all you need. Drummer Alex Ross bashes away with abandon for much of the song, but he too sneaks in some dynamics, helping to quiet things down a bit after the chorus so the band can lurch back onto a self-destructive course. For the most part, Fassnacht sticks to simple guitar riffs, but he also plays around with some erratic chords and melodies as the song progresses, adding a little variety to Fire Retarded's refreshingly harsh approach.
Barb's Trailer will be an unwelcome stab in the ear for many. But after digesting a year of diverse, often sophisticated local music, I for one am grateful for the chance to re-connect with the cruder things in life.
Fire Retarded just re-released the Barb's Trailer tracks as part of a split cassette with the New Year's Gang, and plans to record a follow-up soon. The band will play a show at Mickey's Tavern this Friday, December 14.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.