Friday, April 12, 2013
According to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge for the modern world), the phrase “What would Jesus do?” became popular in the United States in the ‘90s as a personal motto for adherents of Evangelical Christianity who used the phrase as a reminder of their belief in a moral imperative to act in a manner that would demonstrate the love of Jesus through their actions. Last Friday at The Bakery, however, the similar phrase “What would Christ do?” was a rallying cry to bow down to a different bearded figure – the enigmatic frontman of The Growl, Cam Avery.
Early in the evening Rabbit Island (aka soft-spoken chanteuse Amber Fresh) delivered deeply personal, uncompromising songwriting tucked into intelligent and clever lyrics. Fresh’s delivery is not always up to her ambitions, but hers is a brave, brash sound that deserves a close listen.
While the slow swing and drowsy drop that Shy Panther favours could be comparable to the likes of Balam Acab, Holy Other or even, in some moments, Chet Faker – there is a vivacity to their sound and a liveliness they have developed which thrusts them above all those other bloodshot bedroom beatmakers making the rounds right now. While Dan Fragomeni’s distinctive vocals are the initial drawcard, it’s the subtle atmospherics that stand out in their live show and create a dazzlingly shimmering surface that skips and skates to deliriously disorienting effect.
The Growl’s Cam Avery has a great voice, and a powerful presence, as anyone who has heard him perform with his other, inarguably more successful band Pond will attest, yet it has taken him a while to forge a personal style as an artist.
His previous EP under The Growl moniker, Cleaver Lever, essayed a Jon Spencer-influenced style with songs such as Smoke It Down and 3,6,9: sultry, dirty-blues basement-birthed recordings underpinned by non-flashy guitar playing and distinctive deep-throaty vocals.
Recently released LP What Would Christ Do?? takes this further with the help of local renaissance man James Ireland, whose downtown sensibilities (in addition to his work on the keys, accordion and samples) add a touch of 21st century paranoia to the melange. With the recent-ish addition of Marc Earley on bass – as well as long-standing members Clint Oliver on guitar/bass and Samuel Kuzich and Michael Jelinek both on percussion/drums – the live result is a collection of breast-beating, modern blues songs that hark back to old blues.
They may not be able to heal the sick, walk on water, or turn water into wine, but with impressive songs, including John The Revelator, In The Belly Of The Beast and Cleaver Lever in their hymn books, it’s not hard to imagine The Growl eventually progressing to God-like stature.