Album Review: The Gods Themselves – “Be My Animal”

Like a great stew, the third album by Seattle power trio, The Gods Themselves both highlights its  influences and main ingredients and elevates them into an entirely new dish.

On the title track of ”Be My Animal” singer/guitarist Astra Elane sets the tone by making waves of Jesus & Mary Chain surf guitar reverb and gorgeous vocal harmonies. Those waves crash on a jetty made of pounding, locked-in drums and rumbling baritone guitar lines.

It’s an excellent master recipe. TGT plays with it throughout the record. The come-hither booty-shaker “So Hot” – complete with “bad girls” disco whistle  –  is stripped nearly all the way to the beat, with just a little “sex on wheels” guitar break to hang 10 on.  “Cool” ups the disco-funk even more. Astra’s ethereal harmonies ebb and flow over her sparse guitar licks and a throbbing, interlocking groove.

Lest you get lulled into bliss with mid-tempo, female fronted aural sex, TGT spices things up with up-tempo numbers featuring baritone guitarist / resident male heartthrob Dustin Patterson.  He evokes the ghost of Lux interior while Astra does her best Poison Ivy on the galloping romp“ Speak in Tongues.”  The very 80s dance-rocker “Tech Boys” is easy to imagine as an updated musical remake of “Weird Science” – with Astra as Kelly Le Brock’s vixen and Dustin and drummer Collin O’Meara as two nerds summoning her via 4g on a hacked Iphone.

Astra & Dustin wind up “Be My Animal” with a four song lead vocal trade-off.  Astra’s “St Mary” is groovy ode to weed so sweetly sung that it would bring Tommy Chong to tears. The album closer, “Alone” changes gears dramatically from Dustin’s low key vocalized lament to a frenzied instrumental bridge that crosses between the Stooges and Sonic Youth. When the bridge returns as an outro, a sax joins in, ending TGT’s journey smack dab in the Funhouse.

For those who did not frequent Seattle in the 2000s, the Funhouse was Seattle’s great punk rock saloon. It’s Killer Klown 3D signed facade was spitting distance from the Space Needle. Combined with the 5 Points Cafe and The Experience Music Project, it anchored the USA’s coolest neighborhood featuring a tourist trap. Gentrification ate the Funhouse a few years back, forcing the club to relocate in the lounge of El Corazon, a larger Metal joint. While I can’t say if “Be My Animal’s” closing notes are a conscious tip of the hat to both The Stooges and the club that bears the name of their freakiest tune – the glove fits.  Rock & Roll may have to squeeze into different spaces to survive in the face of artist-unfriendly 21st century economics, but it is still kicking strong.  And If it fits – you must acquit.

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Tom Bowker is roughly as large as his life. He is best known for his 12-year tenure as the Ringmaster of the Weird World of Blowfly.

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