Nashville’s Faux Ferocious will be hitting up SXSW Music Festival this year. The band – composed of Jonathan Phillips, Reid Cummings, Dylan Palmer, and Terry Kane – who list pornography and beer as interests on their Facebook page, don’t take themselves too seriously. And it works. They strike a graceful balance between pickled krautrock, driving, crack-the-whip punk and the shimmery and seductive psychedelia that makes shag carpet a reasonable flooring option. The band released an album in 2016 titled Cloning the Rubicon. It is a record to listen to while wearing either leather pants or no pants at all. It is a worthy soundtrack for storming the castle when the odds are against you, for sailing into the sunset three sheets to the wind, and for mooning a busload of clergy while speeding down a sun drenched highway.
The first track on the album, “Beaumont,” melds guitar with drums in that delicious way that makes you want to crawl into your speakers and live there, surviving on pizza crust crumbs and cohabitating with the beat like an Odd Couple with a healthy appetite for mushrooms. The guitar wriggles as the beat of the drum shifts from a light, party line to evolve into a heavier pounding that evokes something deeper. This song has the depth of a Chicago pizza, but without the cheese.
“Let Me Get in Your Head” is short and sweet. It is a track that someone wearing a denim vest could use to successfully prime their lover for a marriage proposal. The next track, “Billy,” is a ballad with a beat like chewing a medium rare steak. This is the music to listen to while red juices drip down your chin. Faux Ferocious’s sound here is primal. It’s a sound that knocks at the door of the sublime, invitation be damned.
The album advances smoothly in a spiral that is neverending, unless your battery dies or your connection is disrupted or you experience sudden deafness with vertigo because the magnitude of rock contained within Cloning the Rubicon blocks proper cochlear function. “Nowhere to Go” makes direction moot, a swirling celebration of backyard woodworking and red muscle cars. Then, “Who I Become” is a pulsating tune that feels like the sweet softness of slippers on a chilly morning, as the drums push forward as the listener hears the low vocals singing, I’m alright / with who I become.
“Vicious Grin” features a guitar on hand-shaved rockers with pulled back pulled pork punk vocals in between the riffs. The drums writhe like a young gum tree in the wind and the song ends suddenly, a brief blip of silence cutting through the delicious sound to deliver the beating beginning of “School Dates,” a song that makes you want to pull on your boots and slow-step it with someone you care about – be it your delivery guy, a schnauzer, a ten-year-old sedan, or your own ego. The song accepts all for who they are and for who they aspire to be.
“Kawasaki Dreamin’” floats like dandelion fuzz through the gases of the galaxy. This track has the potential to put the neurologically vulnerable into a coma… or to persuade them to buy that dirt bike they found on craigslist. The song is a testament to the old saying, “Everything looks easier on YouTube.”
In “Feeding Frenzy” Faux Ferocious tells their secrets and ties your trust around their sweaty heads like a bandana. The guitar oscillations are worth it as the drums move like underwater vegetation. Should I at some point in my life, run one of those spas where people pay to put their feet in fish tanks stocked with minnows with a taste for dead flesh, this song will be on heavy rotation.
The beginning of “Hey Son” holds the promise of the 80s and the rhythms of prehistoric times. These are the sounds that our ancestors beat out on rocks and resonated in gourds when the spark they felt inside didn’t jive with the grunted expectations of the rest of society. The track ends with the sound electric navel lint makes when blowing in the wind. In a rapid hullabaloo, “Listen Hard” explodes into your consciousness and disappears with a pop, a brief glimpse into the irises of what is and what isn’t, what could be and what might be.
“Town to Town” is the sound that the gods of Rock make in the morning when they gargle gasoline. The song rocks and bubbles and skitters like skipping stones in an active volcano. “Leather Bed” moves forward at a fast clip, wending its way through time and space like a visit to the go-kart track that doesn’t end in injury. The guitars have the crunch of a sandwich with bean sprouts, but the drums are meaty like roast beef.
As the end of the album draws near, the intensity continues: fast and hard, vocals harmonized, “Allison and Nick” careens like an unregistered jalopy through the backroads of Tennessee. It is over before it began, and it feels like a dream. “Elisha” begins with the summery guitars that make the idea of using a tire swing seem like a real possibility. With too-cool-for-school vocals, the lyrics tell of the pursuit of a woman. If the line I am the man that she wants to meet doesn’t convince you, the guitar will, as it closes the album like the last loud and frothy draws on the straw of a fruity frappe. The song is quick, coming in at just under two minutes, but its slow flow is like the glimpse of a rainbow on a drive through the mountains. First you think you see it, then you see it, then it’s gone, obscured by a giant pointy rock.
Cloning the Rubicon is a buffet of perfectly-sized morsels of sound engineered for the modern attention span, hashtag users, and those who get a wide berth at shows because they don’t care what their dancing looks like. Faux Ferocious has the sharp fangs of the most serious masticators of meat with the souls of vegetarians. They marinate and mold the melodies into forms that could sell yoga pants to Franklin Graham. If you plan to attend SXSW, keep an ear out for them. Otherwise, keep a look out for them at a show near you.