Hearing Aid: Gowanus “Before the Devil Knows Your Dead”
DECEMBER 16, 2015 BY ELI STEIN
Gowanus is a New York City canal. Gowanus is a New York City neighborhood. And, Gowanus is a New York City band.
Gowanus, the band, recently released their 2nd album, Before the Devil Knows Your Dead. Members Duke Kurick (guitar), Alan Maginn (keys/vocals), Matt Domser (bass) and Brandon McClaskey (drums) rejoined Dean Baltulonis, producer of their 2012 release And to the Lost, at his Wild Arctic Studio in Portsmouth, NH. Clocking in at just under an hour, the eight tracks, written over the course of 2013 and 2014, take the listener along some surprising twists and turns.
Devil makes a somewhat unceremonious entrance with “Hughene Jackman,” an organ-driven instrumental that sounds like it was lifted straight from the early 90’s jamband scene. Not bad, but covering some well-worn territory. Keep the record playing though, because it gets better the deeper you dive. This is just the set-up before they knock you down.
“You Don’t Know” starts as a slow-building, high-flying guitar epic with electronic spooky undertones, until, after 5 whole minutes, it jumps the tracks and suddenly is trudging knee-deep in reggae. You’ll be checking to make sure the track hadn’t changed for at least the first couple listens. “How to Climb a Moving Mountain” emerges smoothly from there, sounding like the soundtrack to a protagonist’s eventual self-discovery.
Gowanus provides a one-two-three punch that forms the meatiest portion of the album. After conditioning the listener for long instrumentals, “Probably Not,” a fist-pumping anti-love rock ballad, is literally the piece of rock holding the albums’ more adventurous tracks together. “Blank” is another longer instrumental that takes another surprising turn, from a straight-ahead rocker to a closing section that sounds like the music from a super-secret level from Super Mario Brothers. It’s the level you purposefully never complete, so that you can just sit back and enjoy the jams, while Mario stands tapping his toe, waiting patiently for you to make a move. Completing the album’s strongest portion, “Prestige Worldwide” mixes elements of Black Sabbath and Funkadelic, showing off the band’s heavier side.
On album-closing “The Cage,” they again wait until well after the 5-minute mark to drop into the vocals, before finishing off with a infectiously fun romp that surely must highlight their live shows.
Speaking of which, Gowanus has one upcoming date on the calendar, a New Year’s Eve gig at the Rock Shop in Brooklyn.
Before the Devil Knows Your Dead is available now at the band’s Bandcamp page.
Key Tracks: Probably Not, Blank, Prestige Worldwide