San Diego guitarist John Reis has a résumé that looks like a page from a book of Dada poetry. The guy started laying metal-esque licks for Pitchfork, before moving on to a different sort of twin-guitar mettle in Drive Like Jehu. Along the way he formed the sextet Rocket From the Crypt, and in 2000 alone he contributed power-chord abuse to his long-time-coming Back Off Cupids, the Sultans and Hot Snakes. With so much fretwork, you wonder when he has time to come up with all these new ideas.
Most of his crunch isn't that innovative, however. It's simply good, solid fun. RFTC is a mix of Estrus schlock, late-'80s Chicago bombast and Stax scream and shout. In the band's decade-long existence, it's carved out some toasty maelstroms of kitchen-sink genre abuse that always reminds you of minor variations of something else--a melodic Pussy Galore, an R&B Halo of Flies, a slightly less-drunk Afghan Wigs or Rapeman minus the obsession with Kim Gordon's panties. But it really doesn't matter: Reis and company deliver their oomph with enough cynicism wrapped in sincerity and cloaked in performance to make it all feel like its own invention.
The band also seems to have weathered its various lineup changes and departure from Interscope without losing an ounce of momentum. The latest, 2001's Group Sounds (on Vagrant Records), isn't as psycho-groovy a house-rocking affair as early entries Circa: Now or Hot Charity, but it definitely has more going for it than Scream, Dracula, Scream! or R.F.T.C., even if its listless title lies somewhere between those high and low points, respectively. If the songs are any indication, though, RFTC got its rocks off when naming them. Scorchers like "Straight American Slave," "Ghost Shark" and "This Bad Check is Gonna Stick" explode out of the speakers and incite the sort of there's-a-riot-going-on bacchanalia that comes to RFTC as naturally as belching.
Fellow SoCal habitués The Locust up the frenetic ante with their appetite for destruction, hammering out an evil-eye vibe of sarcastic energy, sort of like what Drunks With Guns would sound like if they did Angry Samoans covers. It's a little off, to be sure, but like similar-minded huff-and-puff stuff--Arab on Radar, Men's Recovery Project, or Cows and the New Bomb Turks in their prime--it's the onstage antics of guys behaving sadly that hits you in the face like a sucker punch. Granted, both of these bands peddle the sort of bluesy, boozy bombast that's older than Keith Richards, but at least in either one of these acts' hands it ain't half as dead.