Don’t let the suave suits fool ya! ‘68 represents some sort of band side project from the Reservoir Dogs squad, dressed to the nines to rip your face off in a two-man aural assault of scuzzy rock ‘n’ roll, with the added wax seal of Josh Scogin’s noisy former projects. But even if ‘68 come across as slipshod as Tarantino’s band of droogs in their experimental stream-of-consciousness style, the weirdly well formulated outcome couldn’t be more different: a strategy of groovy riffs and raucous bravado that pays off handsomely.
Yes, And…, the title of the group’s fourth album, takes its cues from the duo’s setup. Josh Scogin steps up from his metalcore auteur position; always the mouthpiece for a rollicking good time, but now armed with a destructive guitar and effects board to play-fight his drumming compatriot Nikko Yamada. As any ‘68 live show will prove, they’ll make the setlist up then and there depending on their own nightly mood. Scogin might dismantle the drumkit while Yamada has to make use of what pieces are left. Everything’s a jam session built to burn the house down, a dirty blues improv take on the days of The Chariot where Scogin reigned as chief firestarter. But now, following the double whammy feet-finding of records Two Parts Viper and Give One Take One, this new collection gets nastier and heavier. But still manages to fit in a “Coo-coo ga-choo!” too.
With a tracklist describing some sort of pirate battle that ends in armistice due to boredom, the art created by the terrific twosome is one of intrigue: open to endless Reddit sleuthing, or in fact just catchy, humming rock tunes constructed by Scogin while making a grilled cheese (true story, maybe, for the furious fun of Removed Their Hooks). Like the construction of any great crowd-pleasing dish, there’s a wonderful mess splattered about the kitchen that makes the finished product seem even more rewarding. Opener With Distance Between sounds like a vocal and finger warmup, then mimics an over-boiling kettle. The guitar acts as a percussive piece alongside Yamaga’s kit work, never staying in one lane to cut out and bring the noise back in when they feel like making you shit yourself. That riotous Tom and Jerry energy you get from the two is palpable on record as much as in the sweaty club where, despite the hijinks that Scogin hatches, Yamada chases the licks all ‘round the house without slipping up. He keeps the hi-hats and snares popping along with the swinging Southern-tinged rodeo riff of Removed Their Hats, before a ‘Stevie Ray Vaughn goes experimental’ rampage.
There are more straightforward chordal sequences on End This War for those inclined, which is still as chunky and sludgy as a Mississippi Mud Pie. Often, Scogin puts his octave pedals to work, digging around in the trenches on The Captains Sat, which starts out like a soundtrack to a biker operating a jukebox at the dive, snapping the fingers away. No matter whether there’s serious messages of now-expected scaremongering and world-burning on the radio (“Tell me something that I don’t know!” he sardonically screeches on Removed Their Hooks), or an eventual lovelorn ballad on They All Agreed, that dirty scoundrel attitude always bursts forth. Even that track starts out with talk of cowboys, and Let’s Be Friends is some filthy cradle-rocking that’s the musical equivalent of chewing tobacco. As we know from some of Scogin’s humorous exclamations, “Ooh! It’s dangerous!” is always carried out with a smirk.
This effort proves the duo’s own self-appointed mantra of “take it to the limit, boys!”, while exploring new ways to surprise the listener at every half-turn. As Scogin jokingly infers that “this is all I got!” before a fade-out, they give one final reminder of more explosive energy to come. They know it isn’t closed off, it’s just the beginning of ‘68’s rise, and the future of rock ‘n’ roll still looks safely poised in the able hands of these veteran funsters. “Coo-coo ga-choo!” and all that.
For fans of: The Chariot, The White Stripes, Every Time I Die
‘Yes, And…’ by ‘68 is released on 29th September on Pure Noise Records.
Words by Elliot Burr