Cathartic caterwaul

Aug 25, 1999 at 12:00 am

These two are totally friggin’ mental! And that, to paraphrase Martha Stewart, is a good thing. Bantam Rooster’s debut album of two years ago, Deal Me In, was a raging slab of punk frustration with dangerous backwoods undertones wailed by guitarist/howler T. Jackson Potter and drummer Eric Cook. They were a duo then, as Bantam Rooster’s a duo now, but between Potter’s seemingly four-handed guitar attack and Cook’s tight, controlled bash spasms, Bantam Rooster hit like a gang. All of this context leads up to the unbelievable conclusion that The Cross and the Switchblade, the duo’s second LP and Cook’s last document with the band (his seat’s since been more-than-ably filled by Speedball skin-smacker Mike Alonso) is an even rowdier, darker, more powerful garage-via-back-alley cat.

Desperation’s always been close to the core of Potter’s lyrical look at life, but the notched-up fever in his voice isn’t the only thing conspiring to jar you from your senses here. With all of the above-mentioned aggression, I hope I’m not doubling back on myself when I say that the songs are perhaps even more melodic on this outing. It’s not all wail and fury. Classic punk, R&B, rockabilly and metal licks are all processed through Potter’s guitar and come out the other side as damn fine bits of songwriting. Add to that a bigger "sound" in general to the proceedings and the addition of guest artist Jim Diamond and his bluesy organ chops and the super-sizing is complete.

Frantic, pained, compulsive, addictive and just plain rocked out, Bantam Rooster make catharsis sound better than you ever suspected.