To some extent, there are no really new sounds in music – after all, we only have twelve notes to work with and we can only arrange them so many ways. There’s some excitement to be had when you realize that one arrangement of those notes gives you punk rock and another arrangement of the same notes gives you disco (and if you make punk-disco, I might listen to it. Though I can’t imagine it’ll be good). But it’s not a stretch to say that bands are faced with the daunting task of making enjoyable music out of notes that humans have been hearing for centuries. When you think about it, a really thrilling album is a rare thing – I’m not saying that to be glib or ironic or bored in a hip way or whatever, I’m asking you to really think about how many albums really stir you down to your innermost stirrable parts. Even if you could list a hundred albums that do that, your list would still be a very tiny drop in the overall giant fucking bucket of recorded music.
In the late 2oth century and so far here in the 21st, several bands have managed to mostly circumvent the challenge of making new or new-sounding music by diving headlong into the past and making deliberately old sounding music. Some of these bands are awesome (The White Stripes, the Hold Steady, and She & Him come to mind) and some are, to put it charitably, less than awesome (the Brian Setzer Orchestra and a lot of those swing “revival” groups. That shit is horrid. Also, the Gaslight Anthem, a band that basically exists to remind the world that Craig Finn is one of our best working lyricists). Of course, there are tons of bands that fall somewhere in between those two extremes and that’s where the Goodnight Loving comes in.
On their fourth record, The Goodnight Loving Supper Club, the Goodnight Loving literally do nothing that you haven’t heard before. Do you own a Beatles record? Do you own a White Stripes album, or at least an mp3 of “Little Ghost”? Do you own a Byrds record? If you don’t own any of the records I just mentioned, have you at least heard songs by those bands? Then you’ve heard The Goodnight Loving Supper Club. It’s not a bad record, but it doesn’t stick to your musical ribs either.
Some of the faster numbers, like “Earworm” and “Doesn’t Shake Me” are pretty good, but I found myself able to predict pretty much every harmony and guitar squiggle on The Goodnight Loving Supper Club, which is always bad news for revivalist (is that the right word? Fuck it, it’ll do for now) music because there’s really no point in rehashing (reheating, to continue our supper club analogy) the past if you aren’t also going to do something new with it. The White Stripes, for instance, injected punk spirit and Dinosaur Jr. guitars into old folk and blues, which is why “Ball & Biscuit” is so fucking awesome, despite the fact that you’ve heard that kind of thing a million times before. The Goodnight Loving, for the most part, inject annoying Dick Dale guitars into what would otherwise be middling garage country (by the way, “garage country” is a good description for the first couple Uncle Tupelo records). As I said before, the album isn’t bad but it never quite makes it to wholly good either. Hence, “middling.” It’s certainly not as dull as Blitzen Trapper’s Destroyer of the Void – if those were the only two records on earth, The Goodnight Loving Supper Club would be my new favorite album ever. As a matter of fact, The Goodnight Loving Supper Club really bogs down around its slower songs and pointless instrumentals (I believe there are two, but that’s two too many); if it raced along at the breakneck speed of “Earworm,” for a dozen tracks, it might be kind of refreshing.
I get the feeling that, if I was eight years old, I would fucking love The Goodnight Loving Supper Club. It’s breezy, simple, brief, and mostly catchy. I loved the oldies station when I was eight for some of the same reasons. But I’m a grown-up now and I need a little more from my revivalist bands than I’m getting from the Goodnight Loving (although I bet these dudes are a lot of fun live). Also, this album closes with a two-minute instrumental called “The Land of Sky Blue Waters,” which reminds me of the jingle for Hamm’s beer, which reminds me of not one but two alcoholic stepfathers I’ve had in my life. Hamm’s “beer”, for those of you who don’t know, is made from the fermented piss of prison inmates with severe urinary tract infections. It’s conditioned in lead vats lined with underwear that old, incontinent white supremacists died in and is the cheap, horrid beverage of choice for people who will fight you if you don’t think “Black Dog” is the best rock song ever. If you ever see a thinking person about to sip from a can of Hamm’s, it is your duty as a compassionate human being to slap it out their hand and replace it with literally anything else.
But I digress.
The more I listen to The Goodnight Loving Supper Club, the more I kinda get what they’re going for, but I still don’t care more about it. If there are two things I’ve said ad nauseam this year, it’s 1) that 2010 has been a really rewarding year for music and 2) because of #1, I don’t have time for mediocre records. I know that’s repetitive, but in a discussion of a repetitive band, I think it’s fair. The Goodnight Loving Supper Club might be a notch or two above mediocre, but when I want deliciously old school fare in a similar vein, I’m gonna turn to the Mynabirds and so should you. What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood is not a rock album and yet it fucking rocks. The Goodnight Loving might get to that level someday, but they will have to dig a little deeper than they have on The Goodnight Loving Supper Club.