Review: Giddy Motors – “Make It Pop”

Giddy Motors proclaims that the band’s debut “combines the jazz influence of Miles Davis and Christian Vander with angular US post-punk.” The statement is one that’s overblown a bit with ambition. True, the manic guitar and drum shuffle of “Hit Car” can sound as much like the sporadic, invigorating blasts of Ornette Coleman or John Zorn as the guest horns on the track do, but this is hardly Bitches Brew filtered through the genius of Steve Albini. That being said, though, Giddy Motors does seem to be onto something here: a frenetic mix of jazz-rock structures and tight, post-punk grinds. Just take the revved-up June of ’44 of “Sharks and Sailors” less the daydreams about being lost at sea, condense it, shake it up, and you’ll see what I mean.

The eight-song Make it Pop kicks off with “Magmanic,” where guitarist/vocalist Gaverick de Vis sets the ground rules: trebly, distorted guitars cutting in and out over a landscape of driving bass lines and understated but intense drum patterns. Think a much looser version of The Jesus Lizard circa Goat mixed with a good dose of Ian MacKaye and you get the idea.

But the band does more than just give vacant nods to Touch and Go or Dischord’s respective catalogues. The aforementioned grooves of “Hit Car” aside, the record treats you to bouncy, trance breakdowns laced with digital delay (“Bottle Opener”), carnivalesque explosions and shifts in time signature (“Magmanic”), and off-kilter murder mystery lurking (“Cranium Crux” and “Dog Hands”).

And let’s not forget the reason some might jump to pick up the disc from this South London band before even finishing this review. The record closing “Whirled By Curses” (a catchy-as-all-hell single in the post-punk sense) features some vocal assistance from Todd Trainer of Shellac and Brick Layer Cake notoriety. For those Chicago scenesters who aren’t sold yet, never mind that Albini put the whole thing to tape at good ol’ Electrical Audio. The bass lines in “Sassy” are one of the best imitations of David Wm. Sims you’ve heard in a long, long while.

Despite these pleasant surprises, though, Giddy Motors seems to hit the nail on the head, musically speaking, when they just let loose and thrash around. The duo/trio — when the LP was recorded, Gordon Ashdown had yet to join de Vis and Manu Ros as a full-time bassist — seems to have a great way of exuding all of the fury and frustration of post-punk while toying with a kind of raw playfulness. When you hear de Vis moan, or yell “Tie my head and saw it out!” (Or is it “Time my head is sawed out”?), he just sounds like he’s having a hell of a good time. Why shouldn’t we?

A down side for the sake of critical balance? While best listened to as a whole product, the record still has some parts that don’t quite seem to click. Case in point: “Venus Medallist,” a quiet number — complete with an acoustic guitar and, yes, strings — possibly meant to calm the listener before the full-throttle close of “Whirled By Curses.” The song is sincere and well written and strangely heart-felt but, for all of its tender details, you would see it fitting better on Pullman’s Turnstyles and Junkpiles than here. For all of the interesting textures on the record, you still can’t seem to digest a soft refrain of strings after de Vis spends most of the preceding songs screaming and barking over high-pressure post-punk.

Up until now, music of this stripe — and quality — has come from towns like Chicago, Washington, DC, Louisville, et cetera. Giddy Motors knocks over the regional expectations of the neighsayers with this too-short debut and lets us in on the inside track: there’s something brewing across the pond in the British Empire. – Delusions of Adequacy, Oct. 13, 2003

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