Thursday, March 13, 2014

Square Zeros #11: Chris Tracy (Clean Girls, Shire)

Chris Tracy, in his own way, embodies rock n roll history. As a kid, his first obsession was the pop-minded folk rock of Simon and Garfunkel. Eventually, he broadened his scope by listening to classic rock radio, and by high school he was a full-blown devotee of the likes of Zeppelin, AC/DC, and ZZ Top. Then he discovered punk: "My head exploded," he says, "and nothing was the same (as Drake would say)."

Chris plays guitar and shares vocal duties in the Brooklyn-based noise trio Clean Girls, and this moment in his musical trajectory finds him testing the limits of what you can do with three fuzz pedals and a razor-sharp rhythm section. Clean Girls blends the best aspects of twitchy, discordant rippers like Slint or The Jesus Lizard with the hardcore chops of, say, early Converge. They've released two EPs on 12-inch vinyl in the past year-and-change that nod to '90s Touch And Go Records while establishing a sound that's completely, brutally, their own.

The early songs Chris brought us are from a different world entirely — less Ginn, more Page. In high school, Chris played in a classic rock outfit called Shire (more on the name in a second) with a handful of friends that recorded in one guy's parents' basement in northern Virginia. The first cut is a two-minute cocks-out anthem Chris and his pals wrote on his 16th birthday. Chris plays rhythm guitar, supporting some impressive soloing and a vocalist who pays better homage to Bon Scott than the best dad rock band out there.

Shire, as you probably guessed, is a reference to The Lord Of The Rings, and in this next track the band delivers on its literary-meets-shred core. "Death They Cried" is a Judas Priest-esque ballad about the Battle of Pelennor Fields. If you're not familiar, Chris paints a vivid picture:

Essentially the forces of Mordor had besieged Minas Tirith, which is the capital of Gondor, and things are looking real fucking bleak. Fortunately, in the nick of time King Theoden comes out from under the spell of Grima Wormtongue and the Rohirrim are roused and he gives this really baller speech. The Rohirrim refer to themselves as Eorlingas, so it's like, 'Forth, Eorlingas, ride to death!' And they break the siege and save the city. And there's just like black orc blood everywhere, horses getting chopped up, Nazg├╗l on fell beasts in the air. It's heavy shit.
Listen for the group battle cry in the middle of the soloing (around 3:07): "Forth, Eorlingas!"

Shortly after recording those tracks and playing a few shows, Chris says he discovered Black Flag, and disputes over whether to cover "Six Pack" or Journey unraveled the band. 

We're certainly grateful Chris spent some time in Middle Earth before moving to Brooklyn.

Catch Clean Girls at Matchless on March 21, check out their EPs here, and listen to them do a new cut and a Shellac cover here. Also, look forward to a music video for "First Day Out," which closes the podcast, and a full-length record in the coming months.

Thanks Chris, thanks Shire. Forth, Eorlingas.


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