TCB-Mercy-2

ARTIST: The Cocky Bitches + ALBUM: Mercy + LABEL: Slope Records + RELEASE DATE: NOV 23, 2018

Legendary guitarist Paul Leary (Butthole Surfers), drummer Sam McCandless (Cold), and vocalist/performance artist Baroness Formica have been playing together since 2003. Starting as Carny, now calling themselves the Cocky Bitches, the band finally releases their debut album, Mercy. You’re not prepared for what the album has to offer, which is exactly why it’s worth checking out. The bands amalgamation of psychedelic blues rock, mixed with not just Leary’s great guitar playing, but also his sound collage/noise pastiche production, makes for a unique and sometimes outrageous collection of songs.

The album opens with the bluesy, sexy swagger of “Sex Machine.” Baroness’s vocals slither and strut against Leary’s distorted bass line and McCandless’s stomp. The song is equal parts provocative and threatening. This tone carries over on “Jump Jane Crow,” a perverse re-imagining of the infamous minstrel “Jump Jim Crow.” As Baroness sings, “I kneel to the buzzard and I bow to the crow/and every time I wheel about I jump just so,”  Leary and McCandless back her with a slinky rhythm topped with dissonant guitars. The psychedelia gets turned up on “Burn Baby Burn,” where any number of instruments could be generating the sounds that blend together and fight for space with Baroness’s haunting vocals. Things get unsettling on the schizophrenic “Hand in the Fire.” The track opens with a relatively straightforward guitar riff as Baroness delivers her most inviting and atmospheric vocals, but then the track descends into a murky and enigmatic dirge. As Baroness demands “put your hand in the fire,” a guttural vocal duet juxtaposes all sense of comfort. The shifts in tempo and tone make this one of the more interesting songs on the album.

“Free the People,” might be the heaviest song on the album. If you’re dying to nerd-out on some classic Paul Leary guitar playing, this is the song for you. As Baroness chants “free the people, from the people” over McCandless’s pounding drums, Leary’s guitar soars, aimlessly wanders, and confounds all at the same time. The bluesy “Produce” adds some levity to the album as Baroness casts an erotic gaze upon someone examining grapes, tomatoes, and eggplants in the produce aisle of an Austin, Texas HEB. As she sings, “squeeze that squash for me, I wanna see you squeeze it real slow,” Leary nonchalantly adds some impeccable tremolo guitar that, ironically, might just be the most tasteful thing on the whole album. “Humper” is the song that will induce you to swing your hips, not that it’s any less weird than the tracks that came before it – it’s just a fun, almost joyous song. Not unlike “Rocket,” that kicks up the tempo with McCandless’s tight, driving beats and Leary’s proto-punk guitars. The title track closes the album with a sludgy, tractor-pull rhythm that serves as the foundation for Baroness’s to conjure all the spirits that permeate the album before the song slowly decays into a cacophony of noise.

There’s not much out there that sounds like The Cocky Bitches’ Mercy, which is one reason why it’s so refreshing. But, this isn’t different for the sake of being different. The band’s vision is sharp and deliberate and the combination of each members talents are fully realized and distilled into this horny and wonderfully strange album.

– J. Kevin Lynch


 

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