By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Slowly, America has caught up, and Centro-matic has since toured with some of the finest in our country's indie scene, including Death Cab for Cutie, My Morning Jacket and Drive-By Truckers. That's not to say Centro-matic is coasting--the members each still have day jobs, and when asked about their finances, a delivery guy walks up, as if on cue, to charge them for cheap deli sandwiches. (Danbom refuses Johnson's cash, saying, "Don't worry, you'll pay me back.")
They point out plenty of good reasons to keep Centro-matic running another 10 years. They've met their musical heroes. They make albums their own way and are damn proud that no labels meddle. They inspire each other both musically and as friends (and Johnson's move to Austin has strengthened their time together every time they regroup in Denton). But the most obvious reason is one they're too humble to say out loud--they kick more ass now than ever before. In concert, the group chains together classics like "Call the Legion in Tonight" with more recent hits like "Flashes and Cables" and "Fountains of Fire," each setting off their allegiant crowds at first note.
Fort Recovery doesn't let up, either; "Calling Thermatico" is a bruiser that could bully most any modern-rock song, and final track "Take a Rake" has symphonic heft and amplified guts that combine the studio powers of Pence, the double-barreled guitar and bass blasts of Johnson and Hedman and the greasy, thick synthesizers of Danbom into the biggest-sounding song of their career.
Johnson originally four-tracked the finale by himself, and on the record, he's the one raining drumstick thunder, not Pence. But on CD, the song is the result of a quartet, not just one guy.
"The songs evolve from very isolated situations, me sitting in a room and writing, but then...everyone puts their own bit of personality on the songs," Johnson says. "When Scott takes a fiddle part and attacks it, comes up with something I didn't see in the first place, or Mark picks up the guitar and comes up with one of my favorite guitar lines on the record...That's where the friendships and our connections start to speak for themselves."
On March 6, 1996, Johnson concluded songs at the Argo by saying, "We thank you for coming out." The royal "we" sounded funny at the time, but 10 years later, it's obvious that Johnson knew what he meant.