Now, hereâ€™s a band with very little in-between about it. Â I can pretty much guarantee that Frown Powâ€™r would either clear a room in seconds or make that room (albeit one populated by a slim selection of extremely open-minded and/or mind-altered people) erupt and sway in ecstasy. That is, if and when the band ever gets across the Arkansas border; no longer reliant upon its apparently devoted, beer-drinking coterie. Everyone knows those scenes.
Donâ€™t Doubt It, Shout It! opens with acoustic cabaret claps and piano notes that, at first listen, could pass for any number of contemporary, usually bearded, Â Americana-ish musicians. â€śNo, boy, your babe ainâ€™t dead,â€ť the group attempts to reassure the songâ€™s subject, â€śBear Bryant.â€ť Itâ€™s just open-ended enough for me to sit up straight, hoping for something beyond the norm. And this is a case when Iâ€™m glad I wasnâ€™t careful what I wished for. The insanely shambling stomp, carousel-clownish harmonic notes, and anguished/drunk/fanatic vocals of â€śStomp Wagonâ€ť bring a delighted chortle.Â Yeah, Frown Powâ€™r is molding the established boxes of Tex-Mex, gospel, folk, and garage rock into fecklessly idiosyncratic shapesâ€¦ often, within one song.
Donâ€™t Doubt It, Shout It! can feel like a memorial celebration for Hank Williams and Gene Pitney, wherein Jad Fair, Tav Falco, Don Fleming, and a drunk-out-of-his-mind Leon Russell attempt a jam. Itâ€™s the kind of jam that everyone who was there talks about for years. But when they play the recording, itâ€™s far more distorted, incoherent, and funny than they remember. (And, although Fair and Fleming are both well represented by Thick Syrup, theyâ€™re not in Frown Powâ€™r.)
Thereâ€™s even make-out material, of a sort, with â€śKeep On Clappinâ€™,â€ť a Merseybeat-chorded balm to anyone mourning Don Van Vliet. Only the vocals sound anything like Beefheart. But the free-wheeling form recalls his intuitive amalgam of anything he loved and wanted to put together, with passion getting the train to the depot. â€śKOCâ€ť would go well after Beefheartâ€™s â€śMy Headâ€™s My Only House Unless It Rains.â€ť Here, itâ€™s followed by more whimsical guitar, on â€śA List of Things I Own,â€ť which pulls out a dramatic, marching band snare motif before J.T. Tarpley (aka Flash Gurdon) sings a short, very pretty ditty that grows ragged; dissolving into dissonant guitar.
The excess that can accompany freedom is, as is to be expected in any but the more miraculous form-defying cases, here. Not everything is as wonderful as what Iâ€™ve described, and Iâ€™ve left out a few great tracks. Nevertheless, I think Iâ€™m in love. Little Rock has been added to my list of possible relocation sites. Birds of a crazee feather have to flock together, and Frown Powâ€™r is making lovely, wacky, funny sounds. Also, if the world as we know it is hitting a wall, Iâ€™d like to camp out in a shelter with a band that sings, â€śWhen bad things just keep on happeninâ€™/I keep, keep,Â keep on clappinâ€™.â€ť