The Blistering Speeds
(The Midgetmen are hosting their annual birthday concert tonight at Red 7. It’s two stages and features some great local talent. One of those groups is The Blistering Speeds, which hit the outside stage at 10pm.)
The dream of the 90’s is alive in The Blistering Speeds. I can’t think of a time in recent memory when I’ve heard a band that reminded me of early/mid-90’s “modern” rock in a way that didn’t also make me hate them. On Casablanca is a State of Mind, though, the Blistering Speeds reach back to a bygone era of fuzzed-out, tuned-down guitars, and cynicism in a way that sounds unironically modern yet nostalgic at the same time and I love it!
The lead off track, “SP5G,” doesn’t waste time in getting things started, charging out of the gate like a Pamplona bull. The song sports layers of up-tempo fuzzy guitars, coupled with piercing drums and complemented by vocalist Scotty Loewen’s nasal growl. It immediately becomes obvious that The Blistering Speeds isn’t just a name; it’s a mission statement. About 2/3 of the way through the track, however, all that changes. All of a sudden, everything gets kind of chill and quiet. The fuzz goes out of the guitar for a few bars as it strums out a soulful riff. Slowly, stealthily in the background, the percussion begins to sneak it’s way back in. But the quiet is destined not to last as the fuzz quickly returns along with the rest of the band, the same soulful riff now searing across the track and building to a balls-out rock crescendo in the song’s final moments. On first listen it was enough to take me from “Yeah … this is alright” to “Hell yeah! This is awesome!”
The rest of Casablanca is a State of Mind unfolds in a manner that (after hearing “SP5G”) is hardly unexpected. This album is raucous, loud, layered, and in control in every possible way. It’s grimy in a completely intentional way and introspective as often as it is in-your-face. While nostalgic (at least for this late-era Gen-X’er), it neither aims for nostalgia nor irony. There’s a sincerity to The Blistering Speeds’ sound that just screams “These guys want to rock,” and rock they do. While there are a couple of forgettable tracks on Casablanca… here and there, the stand out tracks more than make up for them. The aforementioned “SP5G” is an obvious choice. The 7-minute “Camp No” is another, with a scorching first half that gives way to a mellow, but somewhat ominous instrumental mid-section, then fades out in a pseudo-psychedelic haze. Album closer “An Event” is as epic as its 9-minute play time suggests, with its slow, steady build leading into a stoner rock wash and culminating in a wall of noise and guitars.
While maybe not as impressive to those who didn’t come of age musically in the 90’s, I think The Blistering Speeds have a lot to offer any serious rock fan and Casablanca is a State of Mind is worth a listen or two. Having only recently heard of this band I’m almost bummed that I’ll be in Dallas for my friend’s wedding tonight and unable to hear these guys live at the Midgetmen 11th Anniversorry show at Red 7. I guess I’m just going to have to count on the rest of you to rock out extra hard in my absence.
– Brian Audette