Detroit's garage-rock renaissance has spawned a bevy of gritty bands intent on capturing the rough, raw spirit of a bygone era. It is a backward-looking scene obsessed with rediscovering and maybe even re-creating that moment when hard-edged rock, the earliest hints of punk and explosive blues collided in a magnificent sonic maelstrom.
One of the avatars of this retro sound is the Soledad Brothers, a Detroit-based trio that has taken the old-school ethos to heart. In front of a crowd of a just a few dozen at Iota on Sunday night, the band's blistering performance brought the ghosts of rock's past to life. With a swaggering sound that hinted at the intensity and bluster of Led Zeppelin, MC5, even early Rolling Stones, the band made a roiling pitch for primal rock.
Most drummers are fairly anonymous, but Ben Swank (real name Ben Smith) plays with Keith Moon ferocity and has a jubilant, thrashing style that makes you never want to look away. He assumed at least an equal role with guitarists and singers Johnny Walker (real name Johnny Wirick) and Oliver Henry (real name Oliver Henry).
Most of the songs during the 90-minute set were drawn from the band's latest CD, "Voice of Treason," including the thunderous "Elucidator" and "Handle Song," as full-throttle a rocker as was ever made. "Cage That Tiger" was another bristling bit of mayhem. And when Henry added bluesy saxophone blasts on a few numbers, it felt like a prelude to a riot.
The Soledad Brothers can make music that feels like a thrilling, dangerous storm. But where they can take such music is questionable. It is a sound that has been done before, and to simply re-create it is ultimately unsatisfying.
-- Joe Heim