Lost Tracks: Review of Visqueen's 'Message to Garcia'

Tuesday, December 22, 2009



Honest rock-and-roll records are hard to come by these days. Every group has a gimmick or, even worse, they're from Brooklyn. Not Visqueen. On its third album, the band, led by guitarist and singer Rachel Flotard, traffics in fundamentals (guitar, bass, drums) and fury. From the disc's opening blast, "Hand Me Down," to its crashing coda 10 songs later, "Jimmy vs. James," the music is insistent, urgent, thrilling. There are no wasted notes, no flash distractions. Flotard's voice wants to be heard, not lost in swirly atmospherics. It rises above the raucous, crunching guitar din, a thought bubble sung, clear and certain.

There's a complexity to Flotard's singing that makes even seemingly straightforward lines feel layered. "When you gonna fight for love?" she howls, and it sounds like both a challenge and a plea. Elsewhere she roars, wallows, reassures and threatens in equal measure, each song filled with conviction, loaded with meaning. Backing vocals by Neko Case add to the winning mix of loveliness and grit.

On the rare occasions where the music slows down to catch its breath, the shift is almost startling. The haunting farewell, "So Long," takes on added weight with the knowledge that the entire album is a tribute to Flotard's father, who died of cancer last year in her Seattle home, where she had been taking care of him. That loss informs the album without overwhelming it, suffusing it with spirit and fight and a mighty, driving purpose.

-- Joe Heim

Recommended tracks

"Forgive Me" "So Long" "Janitor's Waltz"

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