Sometimes the release of a new record is one giant excuse to reconsider a group’s music of yore alongside the new stuff. For me, this is exactly what happened with the week-ago release of Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s Rot Gut, Domestic.
You see, Buzzard — the last we heard of Margot — was released in September 2010, or about a month after this project began. I have a special affinity for that full length because it happens to be one of the first I reviewed in my new city. As such — and because I liked it so — I made space for it in my review of the best of 2010.
I realize Margot has quite a few years (and albums) on both releases, but that’s all I’m familiar with, really. In the time since Buzzard, I’ve strangely passed on their comings and goings. I could have, easily, taken liberty in the interim to educate myself on the collections that came before Buzzard, but sadly — from a critic’s perspective — I did not.
With that said, it isn’t that Rot Gut, Domestic is disappointing; I just think Buzzard the finer album.
The takeaway about Buzzard is how wonderfully chilling it is. It hits with a raw intensity that I think is no better exemplified than in the opening track, “Birds.” Richard Edwards sings extra high, and the guitars at full throttle just overwhelm in madness. I mean, the lyrical shiftings from “let’s have a party” to “let’s have a baby” to “let’s make it evil” encourages the smothering of things, I think.
With this in mind, Rot Gut, Domestic comes off profoundly soft to me. Margot totes the rock in tunes like “Disease and Tobacco Free” and “Fisher Of Men,” but probably at no time would I confuse what’s of Rot Gut, Domestic and what’s of Buzzard. Whereas Buzzard’s rock is coarse and uncooked, Rot Gut, Domestic feels way more overproduced and articulate. Studio. Even screams of distress — not a major part of either album, anyway — seem deviceful in Buzzard; mere supplement on Rot Gut.
But the hopeful surprise in Rot Gut lies in its final two tracks. Named “The Devil” and then “Christ,” Rot Gut’s one-two coda proved how strikingly contemplative Margot can be. I hadn’t considered the spiritual side of the guys of Margot before Rot Gut. Now I’m not as sure.
You see, “The Devil” and “Christ” blueprint understood boundaries between the entities (others might argue concepts). In “The Devil,” Edwards argues Satan “wants to mess you up,” “steal your head” and “take you home,” and yet whether or not the Devil strikes within you fear, he doesn’t care. He wants all these things — your brain, your will — but then doesn’t, too. He couldn’t care less.
“Christ,” well, is a case for Christ. To Edwards, Christ “wants to know your shoe size” and “the weird shit in your brain,” but “breaks your heart every night when he doesn’t come.” Like the Devil, I guess, Christ isn’t immediately there in the tangible way, despite being branded with fantastic promises.
I had these things in mind as I revisited Buzzard. To my surprise, Buzzard, too, completes itself with a handful of tracks that toe the spiritual line. Though not as transparent as “The Devil” and “Christ,” Buzzard’s final numbers — “Earth to Aliens: What Do You Want?” and “I Do” — read totally different to me now. Margot is highly meditative; reflective. And I don’t know that I would have gotten there without Rot Gut.
From “I Do” on Buzzard:
If you kick me to the curb
It’s probably just what I deserve
I’m gonna run to you and gobble you up
If you leave me in the lurch
Without a penny to my name
I’m gonna run to you and gobble you up
That Rot Gut ends on “Christ” and not “The Devil” — and not the other way ’round — I find particularly affecting.
- Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, of Chicago and Indianapolis, is: Richard Edwards (vocals, guitar), Tyler Watkins (bass, vocals), Erik Kang (violin, lap steel, guitar), Brian Deck (drums), Chris Fry (drums), Ronnie Kwasman (guitar), Cameron McGill (keyboards, vocals, harmonica) and Gary Vermillion (more drums).
- Rot Gut, Domestic is available for $15 (CD) or $23 (vinyl) | Margot Store
- Margot plays Lincoln Hall on June 2. $15. | Tickets
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