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Monday, October 27, 2014

The Jimmy/Johnny Mobius Riff
DC Larson

The Tremors
"Old Fashioned Hillbilly Feud" (Brain Drain)

(IMPORTANT: If you have yet to actually hear the raw, ragged, and manic Tremors, put away these words and get thee to the record store!)

Jimmy Tremor and Johnny Ramone have more in common than battle-scarred pickguards. A lot more.

Johnny had a theory: when a band changed, it got worse, And throughout that seminal NYC punk assault combo's remarkable and lastingly influential oeuvre, buzzsaw-chording commando Johnny fought to keep the Ramones on familiar footing, both image and sound-wise. Some others in (or around) the group might have entertained occasional notions of creative roaming, especially in the 80s, when tastes were in flux and success writ large remained elusive. But Johnny was adamant. The economical shock trooper sound, the leather jackets/jeans uniforms, the surly, 'You-talkin'-to-me?' attitude -- as they had been in the Bowery beginning, so they would remain into Blitzkrieg perpetuity.

Just so, Jimmy Tremor (nee Gardner), leader of North Carolina's hell-bent-for-moonshine hillbilly rockers the Tremors, has ensured that they varied little over the course of 10 years and 5 CDs. There was and is no need; he was right from the start. The feral cats howling at the fractured, midnight blood moon from the red clay tobacco roads of America's lost hick-dimension have stayed true to Jimmy's original vision.

There has been one change: the Tremors grow more confident and able with each exuberant waxing.The title cut and "Cabin Fever" are trademark Tremors; good-timey rampages that just barely stay on the steel. That they never fly from the track is open-faced testament to the band's top-drawer prowess.

Drummer Stretch Armstrong and slap-bassman Slim Perkins wreak one of the surest and most frenetically rollicking rhythms on present offer. The two rock-ribbed stalwarts have been at Jimmy's elbow since 2004 debut Scourge of the South. And better complement cannot be located.

Jimmy's own jittery, impassioned, psychologically-tilted hayseed implorings -- punctuated now and again by strangled yelps recalling Hasil Adkins --  and white lightning-speed treble note squallings reach ever-higher plateaus of backwoods psychosis. (When Jimmy stalks the bass strings on the fevered cover of "Wreck of the Old '97," you'd swear that he'd lost his religion.)

Back to th Mobeus Riff: Watch old Ramones video clips -- the same fierce, possessed, jaw muscle-flexed visage Johnny profferred as he thrashed his Mosrite clenches Jimmy's features, too.

But like Johnny, Jimmy is much more the knowing businessman than his crazed, stage-lit demeanor might suggest, From disc one, he has imprinted the band's output in manifold ways, not only writing most of the songs (or collaborating with Stretch and Slim) and holding down the guitar and lead vocal duties, but also producing, and designing cover art. Jimmy even oversees the band's label, Brain Drain.

Another Jimmy/Johnny similarity can be found in the songs, themselves. Many cross the finish line in less than two minutes. Built for speed, their minimalist constructions allow for unloosed rocketship delivery.

Most importantly, Jimmy and Johnny share the same proudly defiant certainty of identity - of purpose, of direction, of one's only appropriate place in The Scheme - that distinguishes the iconic and crucial maverick driver from the driven rabble that follow.

Because maybe the world digs you and yours, or maybe only the few are hip to the tip, but the point is that it is your Frankenstein. You imagined it, and made it so. You raised it up, a singular noise that delivers bodies old and young into writhing epileptic paroxsyms of carbonated ebullience.

In that spittle-flecked, confessional exhortation lies the truest baring of self. Jimmy, Johnny -- it's a Mobius

Recommended tracks: "Old Fashioned Hillbilly Feud," "High Time," "Why I Cry," "Cabin Fever," "Wreck of the Old 97"

VIDEO:  ("100 Proof Blues Boogie," from previous CD)