Local crew Pearlene's amazing new album, For Western Violence and Brief Sensuality, gets the local CD release party treatment Saturday at the Northside Tavern. For the free show, the band will be joined by Foxfire, which is singers Beth Harris (also of The Hiders) and Kristen Kreft (Dorsey Blues Band), who also sang back-up for the group when they played behind local Soul "comeback kid "Kenny Smith for a rousing set at the Taft Theatre when Smith was inducted into the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards "Hall of Fame" in November.
For Western Violence and Brief Sensuality is the band's most cohesive and powerful effort to date, following a couple of great releases for respected indie imprints Dim Mak and Sympathy For the Record Industry. While the energy and soul is still turned up to 11, the new album tightens the focus of Pearlene's vision by being less ramshackle and more powerhouse. It's also fascinatingly multi-dimensional, which is likely due to myriad factors. After revolving lineups, the band's current incarnation is immaculate, including the addition of organ/piano player Andrew Higley — who has played with everyone from Bo Diddley to local Art Rock troupe Readymaid — and remarkably intuitive drummer Andy Jody, who locks in telepathically with bassist Jesse Ebaugh, one of the finest bassists Greater Cincinnati has ever seen. (Ebaugh, it should be noted, provides some spectacular harmony and back-up vocals throughout as well.)
Recorded locally at Ultrasuede with Afghan Whigs/Staggering Statistics craftsman John Curley, this is also Pearlene's first studio album (the band's previous efforts were made in their practice space). Then there's the material — singer/guitarist Reuben Glaser's songwriting is now on par with many of the Blues, Soul and Rock icons he so clearly respects and loves. With its mix of rowdy barnburners and soulful anthems, For Western Violence brings all of Pearlene's hinted-at potential front and center, stripping away some of the "garage band" scruffiness to reveal a unit with endless staying power.
Higley's rolling, barrelhouse piano riff kicks off opener "Hosannah!," a soaring, dynamic rumbler laced with swaggering Blues guitar leads and a timeless, unforgettable chorus hook, recalling Beggars-era Stones. "Numbers" is fueled by a hammerhead riff that Jimmy Page and Tony Iommi would trade their left nut to have written, but it's far from Big Dumb Riff Rock, as Glaser and Co. spike the punch bowl with a punkish, pitbull ferocity glazed with a dash of brown-acid trippiness. Likewise, "Watch The Way" soars with brain-tickling Psychedelia — its slurring organ and lysergic sway is what Zeppelin wished "No Quarter" would have sounded like (minus the mystical pretension). Spark a joint before listening to the nearly 10-minute opus "High & Dangerous" and you just might see the face of God.
Elsewhere, "All Fears (Have Faces)" could've come off of an old, iconic '70s Blues/Rock LP, with its Hendrixian vocals and jaw-dropping, sky-is-bleeding guitar work, while "The Shot" closes the album out on its quietest note, with trickling acoustic guitar and plaintive vocals. Capped off by a couple of covers — Fred Neil's "Travelin' Shoes" and the acidic, acoustic-driven "I Hate The Blues" by Dead Moon's Fred Cole — there's not a dud in the bunch here, a rare feat in today's world of overbloated albums filled with songs that wouldn't have even made it to tape 30 years ago.
For Western Violence and Brief Sensuality is an absolute triumph should get national attention — check the "Best Of 2007" lists this time next year and don't be surprised to see Pearlene's name mingling with the big boys with whom this album so clearly shows they belong in the same class (if not at the front of it). If you're bored with the same-old-same Rock & Roll of today, this album will restore your faith. (pearlenemusic.com)
More Local Notes
· Endearing Pop Rock fivesome The Newbees celebrate their sophomore release, Famous, with a show at downtown's Arnold's Bar and Grill this Saturday. The band will be joined by pals Wojo and the Beau Alquizola Band for the free, 9 p.m. show. (thenewbees.com)
· Gotta work Sunday night? Local band Big Whiskey feels your pain and is throwing a party just for you Saturday. The group presents its annual "New Year's Eve Eve" bash — for service industry workers and others sweating it out for "The Man" on NYE — at O'Neal's Tavern in Anderson Township. Bring a couple of canned food items for $2 off the cover charge (to be donated to the Freestore FoodBank). Also performing at the 9 p.m. show are Donny Bray and G. Burton and the Hyde Park Outrage. (bigwhiskeymusic.com)
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: mbreen(at)citybeat.com