Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Band Called Scrawl

Here’s a supremely talented, amazingly original rock band that’s been unjustly forgotten by both fame and fortune.

By: Vanessa Uy

If there was a redeeming quality of the on-line music business, it’s buying used vinyl LPs on e- bay. It’s Scrawl’s Bloodsucker album, the price offered is only half that of a full priced CD. Who says there are no more miracles?

I’ve always wondered why fame and fortune has eluded this band ever since I first started listening to them. Now that I have heard both of their Nature Film and Bloodsucker albums, it’s time for a deeper insight on why Scrawl achieved cult status despite of relative obscurity. While Bloodsucker is the first album that they released since the demise of their former record label Rough Trade. Rough Trade was a legendary record label that many a famous and infamous punk and power pop bands laid the foundation for the “alternative rock” movement of the 1990’s. Rough Trade is also notorious for releasing albums (especially CD) during the mid- 1980’s with a markedly more aggressive recorded sound quality than the norm. The band Young Marble Giants’ “NITA” CD (to be reviewed later); is a very good evidence to start.

What makes Scrawl great is not just defined by the timeframe when “foxcore” was in vogue circa 1989 to 1994. To me good songwriting skills can transcend the limitations of the music being created, thus making it timeless even though on closer scrutiny it betrays the era on when it was created. During their heyday, Scrawl resisted the urge to be a fashionable “foxcore” band like Courtney Love’s “Hole”, by cranking the volume or playing out of tune. Scrawl’s guitarist Marcy Mays has a whole different idea on what “foxcore” means because for her, it means less adept at your instrument and being more bitchy.

Scrawl’s minimalist and rhythmic style might make you think that they are cashing in on the popularity of early alternative/power pop bands like “The Replacements” or Bob Mould’s “Hüsker Du” but theirs is a bit more rough and brooding. Scrawl’s trademark has always been dark but catchy pop songs that stop just short of being melodic. Marcy Mays ascribes much of the credit for this sound to her Hamer sunburst- the same model favored by her favorite guitarist, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen. As the band’s sole guitarist, Mays makes the most of it by using a lot of open strings as opposed to full chords to make her guitar ring and sustain. This may also be a factor in Scrawl having a distinct “sound” of their own.

Even though as a musical format, post World War II popular i.e. rock music is a rather old and utterly predictable medium (verse, chorus, verse, bridge, verse…), Scrawl still manages to infuse theirs with intelligence and wisdom and ends up with songs that are hardly boring or routine. Lyric- wise, they are not your current-crop of Billboard Chart divas who are hell-bent on singing angry songs about the way boys treat her.

In my opinion, it’s a bit strange to label Scrawl as a guitar-driven rock band because in most of their songs, bassist Sue Harsh and drummer Dana Marshall are recorded a bit louder than Marcy Mays’ guitar parts. To me, this will only make their recordings sound more natural.

While they do most of their tours in the continental United States, they wish on someday taking their act overseas. As an audiophile we can help them by asking our “almighty record industry” to release their albums to our local record stores so that every local audiophile can buy them without hassles. Lets help Scrawl fulfill their wish in playing in Budokan, I think this is an ancient temple that hosts rock concerts in Japan. The all time famous bands who had played here before are Cheap Trick and Kiss.

You can send your fan mail to them @ Scrawl P.O. Box 82058 Columbus, Ohio 43202 or @ WWW.SCRAWL.NET.

1 comment:

thund3rbox said...

Great write up on Scrawl. Been a long favorite of mine and criminally overlooked. Worth noting that Steve Albini produced some of their stuff including Velvet Hammer and Travel On, Rider, which contributes to the great sparse, raw feel they get.