First off, this new-school “skate-rock” thing: I realize young people with way better senses of balance than me have enjoyed half-piping on skateboards or rollerskates or whatever small-wheeled contraptions to certain loud’n’fast combos approximately forever, but since when did it become its own genre? Pretty good one, too, as far as I can tell, though I’m not entirely clear on whether Venice Beach power trio the Shrine’s skate-rock is necessarily the same as the kinda more indie-core FIDLAR from Los Angeles (and deserved “Cheap Beer” semi-fame)’s skate-rock or kinda more stoner-metal Hot Lunch from San Francisco’s skate-rock, or whether distinct and perhaps competing skate factions opt for each of these units.
Whatever. Those others are fun too but the Shrine are the best of the bunch, sounding basically like early ‘80s L.A. punk and mid ‘70s doing-donuts-in-the-parking-lot hard rock at the same time, like if Black Flag circa between Damaged and My War loved life more than hated it and liked Thin Lizzy/early Van Halen/old Aerosmith/pre-Nazi Ted Nugent as much as Sabbath. Which is to say their stop-and-start lurching feels too hamburger-fed and healthy to be hardcore, with one of the most proficiently engine-room-like rhythm sections in recent rock memory and gratifyingly little if any slow-for-slow-sake “sludge” dry-rot or fast-for-fast-sake “mosh” malarkey. Drummer Jeff Murray, bassist/backup singer Court Murphy, and absolutely frigging hotshit guitarist/frontman Josh Landau all have long burnout hair, bushy mustaches, and denim vests inside the foldout of their excellent new Bless Off , which careens even more crankably not to mention somewhat less grumpily than their also very good Primitive Blast from 2011. They also evidently have groupies now – or at least, their CD cover features photos of young women in various states of undress and/or buxomness – which may or may not be related to how they seem to be kvetching less about girlfriend problems.
Matter of fact, some Bless Off tunes clearly concern dudes. “The Duke,” one of the album’s less frantic, more psychedelic tracks, is named for and partly written by 60-year-old founding Black Flag bassist Chuck Dukowski, for instance. But the real matched pair are the doper homages “Tripping Corpse” (“He combs his hair!/He doesn’t care!/He’s livin’ free!/Acid casuality!”) and “Napalm,” about some layabout loser who swallows pills by the bottleful and sporting surprisingly comely dum-de-dum-dum opening riffs to boot. “Worship” (sounds like “war ship” which sounds like “horseshit”) and “Bless Off” (sounds like “blast off” which sounds like “fuck off”) complement each other as well. “Nothing Forever” isn’t much of a song but has the album’s most strangleholdly extended breakdown. “On The Grind,” laudable for its hearty group chorus, is about working fingers to the bone with nothing to show for it (“I bought a magic carpet but it won’t take me nowhere”), but “No Penalty” is about setting fire to the school, taking drugs, and spray-painting churches as a wee sapling but getting away with it all anyway. Moral: you win some, you lose some. The Shrine, though, are win-win for all concerned.