Happened on Marshall Cretin while interviewing Soulacious guitarist Ezra Sauter, no slouch his own self. During and after the conversation, Sauter kept bringing them up. More or less said (actually ranted) that they’re one of best things to happen to rock music since electricity. Fact is, they might well be. At least on hearing Friendly Bayonet.
The requisites are there. Strong passion. Cast-iron chops. Excellent material. Unique lyrics. What else does anybody need? Okay, besides widespread airplay? Which this album warrants in spades. Radio stations interested in galvanizing listeners would do well to get a clue about Friendly Bayonet and put a couple cuts in rotation. You can’t hear music this tight without getting all wrapped up in it. Hard, in fact, not to, right off the bat, develop a serious jones.
Friendly Bayonet, quintessential alt rock, is steeped in the seminal L.A. Sound (Byrds, Eagles, Jackson Browne). There’s also a touch of unsung pioneers The Leaves. But make no mistake: Marshall Cretin stake their own claim. Incandescent, brandishing sure authority, remarkable originality. This band, kicking ass and taking names, gives nothing up to anyone. “Baltimore” leads the album off, a driving, texture-rich gem reflecting in wizened terms on lost love. “Trying to Hold On” puts new dimension on guitar-rock, weighing in with soul-stirring grace and gravity. “Maybe Tomorrow,” cynical as the day is long, is a baby-I-have-to-hit-the-highway gem, spirited as hell. Friendly Bayonet goes on like that. One killer cut after another that you can’t wait to hear again.
A misgiving about Friendly Bayonet: No lyric sheet. There’s a dyed-in-the-wool cutting, sardonic sensibility to Marshall Cretin. Damned good words set to music. Only problem is, you can’t always make them out.
For instance, “Susie” is one of those miraculous moments, a song that, from first hearing, you’ll never forget. The melody haunts. Singer and band cook. Without a sheet, though, you have intelligible nips and snaps for the first verse. After that, good luck beyond, “Well, I first met Susie in a strip-mall strip club/ right next to the liquor store/ She had the eyes of a poet and the heart of a saint/ and a mind that was looking for more.” You piece together that it’s about romantic notions of rescuing an abused angel in the alley. You also wish you could read all the words. Maybe next album. Meanwhile, this one works like a chain-gang on overdrive.
Marshall Cretin are Ben Behrens, Tony Tompkins, Doug Martin, Tom Carrera, Andy Schaff, and Andrew Michaelson. Liner notes don’t say who plays and sings what. Wouldn’t let that throw you too far—check their Facebook page for more information, and then put Friendly Bayonet on the box and enjoy the experience.
Photo courtesy Marshall Cretin