This band is excellent. I ought to stop there, provide a link to their new album, Damndest, and get out of the way. But I won’t, because I want to parse their excellence. So keep reading!
Damndest, which you can listen to at SoundCloud and buy at Amazon and iTunes, hits pretty much all of the thousand points of darkness that comprise modern America: Fired worker goes postal; aging high school looker decays in trailer park; courtesy of the Asses of Evil (Rumsfeld, Bush & Cheney), the Patriot Act shadows everything; and no one can escape the four horsemen of the Foxpocalypse (Hannity, O’Reilly, Limbaugh & Beck).
Maybe place has something to do with it. The Ready Stance comes from the border of Ohio and Kentucky – coal country meets rust belt. Perhaps the fly ash and the acid rain strip away the pretentious gloss that drips over everything along both coasts. In any case, this four-piece band is unvarnished, in a good way. I would say that geezers fond of The Dead and/or Tom Petty will like them a lot, and younger music fans will like them too. Personally, I think if they played at the White Eagle, nobody would even know they weren’t from Portland.
I’ve never been to Cincinnati or Newport, Kentucky, its partner across the river, but apparently this twin city metropolis is a great live music region, and this is evident on Damndest. The band’s photo page has some snaps of a gig they did in a music store, cramped between the racks with acoustic guitars and a small trap set and making it look fun. I wish I had been there.
All the songs are written by Wesley Pence. Many of his lyrics are documentary, as in “Little Carmel,” about the Melungeons, a small group of Americans of mixed European, African, and perhaps Native American descent; “Marathon,” based on a local tale about two guys, both with cleft palates, who got into a row at a gas station; and “Steamship Moselle,” about an 1838 boiler explosion that tossed a preacher clear to the riverbank, his Bible still clutched in his cold, dead hand.
Touchdown Jesus” that burned in Monroe, Ohio in 2010):
Where the sprawl meets the suburbsSubdivisions meet the farmsBuild a haciendaIn the style of Escobar...Launder in the CaymansThrough Geneva, PanamaRetire after scrapes with deathHis partners and the law
“Rancho Cristo” also features a refreshing approach to rock drumming courtesy of Eric Moreton. While I love the backbeat more than just about anything, I really took to the deft rolling snare mixed with the classic Fender bass sound and chimy guitar on this tune. The backbeat shows up on the chorus anyway, so one doesn’t actually go into withdrawal.
Pence’s songs certainly take on dark subjects, nowhere more evident than in “Wrecking Ball,” about the consequences to women of a wild youth that can’t even be concealed, let alone repaired, by the miracle of cosmetics. I am glad I’m not quite Mrs. Galantro, is all I can say. (She lives in a trailer park, and I think that’s probably the main difference.) But The Ready Stance delivers the darkness cheerfully, with none of that morose introspective whining in which many singer-songwriters (including me) indulge.
The darkest subject of all may be the one addressed in “Long Arm”:
Rile up the rabble with more patriotic prattlePlatform any indecencyVilify objection for the sake of our protectionShout down dissension to ensure democracy...Should have thought it throughBefore they left it up to you
The lyrics page at the band’s website also provides images to help listeners catch the import of the songs. “Long Arm’s” image is of the Asses of Evil in their suits and ties, chortling together. The picture informs and reinforces the lyrics. Frankly, for me, it’s comforting just knowing somebody out there is still pushing back. However ineffectual song lyrics may seem as a force for social change (although they are occasionally very effectual), and however diffident musicians can be about social activism, it’s nevertheless bracing to know bands like The Ready Stance are observing and nailing the “consensus trance” America appears to want to inhabit for the foreseeable future.
In closing, let me confess that the first thing I thought of when I saw this band’s name was actually the notorious phrase “wide stance” made famous by former Idaho Republican senator Larry Craig (whose sanctimonious hypocrisy is typical of what made me leave the state of my birth). So I looked it up. I guess it’s familiar to athletes, because it means that position of concentrated readiness, as in wrestling, baseball, or tennis, that will allow one to respond quickly to any action by one’s opponent(s). I don’t know if it has any application in men’s bathrooms. I’m pretty sure, though, that The Ready Stance is ready for the world and vice versa.