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Chris Brokaw: Gambler's Ecstasy

Reviewed By: Andrew Carver
Label: Damnably
Format: CD

Guitar genie Chris Brokaw has a long and storied history in indie rock, starting as a drummer with Codeine, then moving onto blues squallers Come and solo as a guitarist. His latest solo effort continues in those two bands’ fine tradition, but also pulls in influences from across the indie spectrum for a diverse and satisfying effort.

'Gambler’s Ecstasy' opens with a tidal wave of guitar distortion and deadpan vocals that split the difference between shoegaze and the elemental fuzz of Bardo Pond on ‘Criminals’, along with a dose of dissonance familiar to fans from his days as guitarist for Come (the somewhat sleepy tempo, meanwhile, will remind older fans of his work with slowcore progenitors Codeine).

The acoustic guitar and screeching violin of ‘Crooked’ provides a break - and might remind some of Sunny Day Real Estate singer Jeremy Enigk’s solo work - before the punkish blurt of ‘Danny Borracho’ kicks in with some Wipers-style chug - then the chanted, repetitive vocal incantations of ‘Into the Woods’ slows things down again.

The nine-minute workout of ‘The Appetites’ is dark and atmospheric, very much in the vein of Come’s lengthier guitar excursions, though Brokaw’s mellow rasp is not the same instrument as Thalia Zedek’s impassioned howl.

‘California’ is a homage to the state’s darker side, as Brokaw sings over some naked jangly guitar about its water wars and disappearances, the promised land found by crossing "deserts crowded with bones"; it could be a latter day soundtrack for ‘Chinatown’.

Then it’s back to angry young Brokaw, who has been "trouble since I was eight" and is a cocky young man who "has been places you’ll never go". With some thumping drums and chunky guitar on ‘How To Listen’, he explains how he is cool with where he is before marching into some melodramatic, crashing chords that will hopefully be lived live with a lot of Pete Townsendish arm windmilling.

By comparison, the penultimate tune ‘Anacordia’ strikes a wistful, endearing note before the coruscating ‘Richard and Vanessa in the Box’ summons up the spirit of flying Saucer Attack to bring things to a close.

Never a very high profile performer, even at Come’s height, Brokaw's ‘Gambler’s Ecstasy’ shows why it would be a terrible shame to let one of America’s finest musicians fall from the radar.

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