ALBUM REVIEW-“In Humor and Sadness” by ’68

There is no doubt that, not long after The Chariot broke up in late 2013, the band’s voracious (think cult) fanbase was extremely pleased to hear that frontman Josh Scogin was furiously working on a new project. Rumors and social media posts began fleshing out details about the new project within just a few months of The Chariot’s last show. Most important was that the project seemed to be Scogin’s effort to finally act upon his long standing and completely unhidden love of modern day blues rock. The two piece band, featuring drummer Micheal Mclellan alongside Scogin, was christened ’68, and the underground waited quite anxiously.

’68 has much of the unbridled insanity that The Chariot (and Norma Jean prior) laid claim to. There are multiple moments on In Humor that are extremely reminiscent of older records from Scogin’s old projects, such as the pounding opening track”R”, and the stop/start breaks, and some of the breakdown sections. It seems that ’68 are completely unafraid to touch on Scogin’s days terrorizing and uniting masses as a hardcore frontman.

This also keeps ’68 from turning into another modern roots band, another part of an unfortunate  modern day fad. The variety and occasional absurdity keeps everyone on their toes in a wonderful manner. Part of this sound is of course Scogin, but drummer Mclellan also very much plays like David Kennedy of The Chariot did, bashing and smashing and holding the songs together perfectly.

The music is, surprising as it may seem, almost poppier. The songs are catchier, there is no way around admitting that, and they are -instrumentation notwithstanding-much simpler. There is a definite Black Keys influence, especially on a lot of the vocal melodies. Whether such an influence can be viewed as good or bad is up for debate, but the overall quality of the effect cannot.

It is indeed quite refreshing and really awesome to hear Scogin explore what he could not with The Chariot or Norma Jean. No one will ever doubt Scogin’s capabilities as a dirty vocalist, but his singing voice is also rather quite special and very Jack White-esque. There is also a great level of oddity and experimentation the band use throughout the record. There are elements of noise rock and just general weirdness that punctuate the “jamminess” and overall fuzz of In Humor. It is also nice to see Scogin get behind a guitar and use it as more than a mere writing element. Now instead of handing off ideas to a band member, he is allowed to stretch out, and the results are very cool indeed.  The variety of sounds created is immense, ranging from feedback squalls to growls to tremolo breaks to fuzzfaced jam sections, all well done and musical.

It is a very good thing ’68 are totally aware that people will always compare them to The Chariot. A band with that sort of following and legacy does not get wiped away so easily. This being said, ’68 are their own animal, and are undoubtedly ready to make their own name and progress on their own terms. In Humor and Sadness is a very special album, an extremely significant one, spontaneous and totally self assured, and ’68 should definitely be proud.

 

9/10

Max Robison

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