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September 26, 2013

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Back to the basics with Mythical Motors

Depending upon your age,  you may have grown up with the notion that “garage band” is just another Apple product—but there was a time in the long-ago when “garage band” was the term applied to fledgling bands whose practice/performance space was that badge of suburbia, the garage (being a Kentucky boy, my earliest band “rehearsed” in the loft of a working barn, but that’s the subject of an article I don’t ever intend to write).  So “garage band” can imply a certain amateur quality and is seen by some as a derogatory term, a title many young bands struggle to distance themselves from. The garage band sound, on the other hand, is a different sort of beast, a combination of enthusiasm for rock and roll, desperation sprung from having to beg, borrow and steal equipment, and innocence about “the rules of music,” which is to say no one has beat you over the head with the notion that you aren’t supposed to do it that way—yet. In the right proportions, those elements can combine to form a kind of music unlike anything else, proto-punk perhaps, and the kids in Mythical Motors have made that the heart and soul of what they do.  

The quintet Mythical Motors has been together in one form or another since 2007 and features Matt Addison as lead vocalist and guitarist, Mike Brown on bass, Brad Smith on drums, Johnny Wingo on second guitar and Hollie Stockman on cello. Yes, cello.  At least three members of the band were at one time part of the earliest punk movement in the area, while Addison has been a “bedroom and basement” recording engineer since the tender age of 14. Whether Mythical Motors is a punk band or not is debatable, inasmuch as any clear definition of punk music is debatable, but the punk sensibilities of the band are undeniable. Their songs are short, fast and powerful. In Addison’s own words, “We like to play short songs, so we can drink more beer,” but I think their songs are short because they don’t need to be any longer. Like a stripped-down muscle machine, their songs have no radio, no A/C, but they will flat outrun anything on the road.

If you are ever approached by an angry guitar player who is demanding money owed or perhaps satisfaction for a perceived slight, ask him about guitar tone. While he pontificates on the subject, you should have adequate time to assume a new identity, move to a foreign land or just wall him up in an abandoned coke oven. He won’t notice. Guitar tone is a bloviated topic—but having said that, I would still be remiss if I did not at least mention Addison and Wingo’s guitar tone, which is a crucial component of their music. It doesn’t come out of an effects processor or pedal, nor is it the result of exotic aged hardwoods paired with hand-wound pick-ups harvested at the peak of ripeness. It comes from cranking up the treble and the volume and then wailing the bejeezus out of the thing.  Almost every guitar player who ever played in a garage band has achieved this tone at some point or other. Most just don’t have the good sense to hang on to it.  

Now we come to the part where I try not to compare them to other bands while comparing them to other bands.  Having made my way through the TWENTY songs of their album The Elated Millions (I’m going to start buying all my music in bulk from now on) the Clash keeps coming to mind. They aren’t a Clash cover band nor are they particularly trying to emulate that iconic group, but there is a quality of the band that Mythical Motors has absolutely nailed. The fact is if you listen closely to Mythical Motors, you can pick out flavors of many of the great punk, post-punk, proto-punk, punk-lite and “I can’t Believe It’s Not Punk” bands, but not without a hint of pop too, akin to that one upbeat Elvis Costello song (and definitely early R.E.M.).  Investigate for yourself; The Elated Millions covers a lot of territory.  Better yet, see them live at Sluggo’s North on September 28 and again on November 9 at the Flicker Bar in Athens, Ga.  While many fine bands continue to push music in to strange new territories, the “back to the basics” approach of Mythical Motors is sublime. 

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September 26, 2013

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