Fast and Loose

The Rich Hands Becoming Gods

By Jay Armstrong

Rich Hands

 

Rock n Roll will never die, anyone who tells you it has or soon will is simply growing older, putting on the lame armor of burning out adulthood while slinking off to be forgotten in their anonymous lives, or they are the kind of person with garbage sense of style still listening on the regular to bands whose shirts are found at Hot Topic or play festivals put on by their local “alternative” rock stations, whatever cardboard existence they call home, to say something is fading founded on release and expression, a necessity to the backbone for art communities and counter cultures alike, really just tells us they haven’t listened to anything out of San Antonio as of late and most importantly they certainly haven’t pressed play on the latest Rich Hands album. For those of us who have been turned on by these dudes for years, the growth shown on Take Care (Resurrection Records) comes not as a surprise, instead we hear it as a milestone in realization of the slow train that’s been coming for a long time as the inevitable immersive dive into this glorious seventies homage comes fully into adulated fruition. And although the arrival in hindsight seems apparent, Nostradamus himself could not have predicted those dancy kids doing a damn fine job trying to sound like they belonged at the party we found ourselves magnetized by five years ago would soon embody the timeless eternal voice of Texas Rock N Roll to take shape in form of our new found heroes.

 

There is no denying these guys studied close the steps Natural Child took along their path of infallibility, yet while Natural Child continues shifting their noise in the way of groove in avoidance of the growl and sweat, Rich Hands casually took note of just what dire need of expression was getting locked out in our lives and kicked the goddamn door open with a six pack in their hand announcing with hugs to all that the dude with the drugs is on his way. From the first distorted strum on “Fast and Loose” the good time is on and along with it the realization ‘shit, I guess we did need an official soundtrack to gloriously carry the weight of our gutter summer,‘ every song demands to be the nostalgic trigger on a future memory of a wild time, opening up the album with this one is the perfect statement about who they are, what they have grown into, and how much they want to be alone with your sister.

 

It’s a strange feeling of arrogance washing over when opening up a conversation with the dude working in the kitchen who you overhear talking on the regular about how important music is to them and how it is the only thing that matters in life blah blah blah only to watch them sniff their upper lip when you begin marking the path from the double-kick pedal auto-tune mediocre-pop-with-a-line-six-plastic-shine they bombard your personal space with back to the pure roots those generic bands are piggy backing off of. I’m in no way embarrassed by once loving (LOVING) Taking Back Sunday and Finch or whatever (judge not lest ye be judged) but when the dudes with more intelligence than me mentioned Milk N Cookies and The Hollywood Brats I took note which kicked my awareness with What About Bob steps down the path which eventually led to every dime in my pocket jangling around as a reminder to spend a couple hours at End of an Ear seeking out Screaming Lord Sutch and Townes Van Zandt records. Ultimately what we find is that even the Stones and Beatles, the heralded gods through time immortal, were absolutely derivative, the same goes for the Ramones, Doug Sahm, Buddy Holly, Lou Reed, The Dolls, Bob Dylan, etc, so what those with the refined tastes of intelligence come to accept is that it is not what you do it is HOW YOU DO IT. I don’t care if you are a chef or a painter, if you believe you are doing something original, or even worse want other people to see you as (ugh) creative, you are a worthless person–it is Derrida to the fullest.

 

A person who will remain unnamed but currently has records out on 12XU makes fun incessantly of the Hotel Vegas sound for saying it lacks originality while trumping up the regurgitated noise his bands get paired with at Beerland without a hint of irony. I can hear clearly his pointed condescension recently about a group of his friends choosing to watch The Rich Hands instead of one of his own shows, I can still feel the bleeding tongue I kept in my mouth in attempt at respecting his opinion, my silence in avoidance of an unnecessary argument still chews at me. His problem is our problem; we continually want to believe what we dig and are a part of is pure and that which does not align itself in a way propping what we are doing up as valid to be seen as a foreign lesser other. The same sentiment could be said for patriotism and the timeless disgusting debate over immigration but I can only digress so far and still remain on target with this album. So while my inbox gets flooded by bands desperately trying to get strangers to agree with their hopeful alignment with lame qualifiers, hardcore/metal/garage/whatev, the real litmus test for myself, and hopefully for you as well, on solidifying respect for some form of output is whether those shaping it are boldly honest as to what artist or time periods they are ripping off. So when getting trolled by a closed mind with a bruised ego we must ask ourselves, especially in the case of bands, whether they are channeling out of respect or reappropriating out of the sad desperate need for us to prop them up for doing so–calling all faux-psych bands in Austin!–this is why Trouble Boys are so impressive, it is why The Dizzease are the best time to be had in town, how they are playing IS everything. How much more could be said for The Rich Hands who have shaped themselves up to dominate our consciousness by putting it all right there on the sleeve to take or leave out of the gate. And maybe this is what makes the band all the more powerful with each album they give us. They seem to value honesty more and more with each show they play, we witness it tangibly come to fruition with each successive song they write. Take an early Rich Hands track such as “Teenager” which was great at the moment, still worthy of being spun on a Friday night, but there was a snarky disconnect between who they were as players and the conversation they allowed us to have with them through listening… there isn’t a single song on Take Care the same could be said for. This album may not open the eyes for those whose dish-washing door-guy ears remain closed to the euphoric sound of purity, some people will allow their predispositions to turn them off completely to the better experiences in life, not you and I though, at least we choose to remain open to the torch bearers of our time.

 

A growth in lyric strength is not exactly what makes this album comfort our denim hearts, I mean it’s not like they sat down attempting to channel Tom Waits or Nick Cave into southern rock but certainly there is a new found value on clarity, on saying what they mean rather than asking us to read between the lines, thus making it Karamazov, the ideal on both sides of the experience be it witness or creator. If you caught them live more than once over the years, you too understand this developing progress converting us gently from layman to clergy. Where once they were a band other groups wanted to see included on their bill for rounding out the good time, now before us is a group venues need on the lineup but no other band wants to play after. The now experience is comfortably inviting, loose and orgiastic without ever feeling generic or disingenuous, something most bands, even the ones we enjoy, spend their entire career setting as a main ambition only to inevitably fall short of.

The first single off the record is “Weekend Blues,” which is a juxtaposition nearing contradiction between the experience as listener standing in opposition of the emotion tapped into for shaping it. Of the entire album it is the more obvious song speaking boldly to their coming on as craftsman in their songwriting style.

 

A nagging recurrence on my first Take Care listen through guided my thoughts to when the Eagles brought in Joe Walsh with hopes of redefining themselves as an actual rock n roll band, “Let It Ride” is what should have happened instead of the soft wash Hotel California; even fans cannot deny how in stripping off their quisi-country roots they managed to somehow completely circumnavigate any fringes of grit they may have had the potential to play with and landed in the lukewarm water of radio friendly singles without a hint of down home substance. Take Care nails all those positive convictions which carried the post-Willie-Nelson biker bands of layered understated vocal harmonies and sly guitar parts under the guise of simplicity throughout the seventies, The Rich Hands hone in on the togetherness of the outsiders and outlaws good time, doing it in a way seeping in the passing of youth, each song a key bump of virility, the slower songs “Junkie Queen” and “Summer Sun” tasting like a bummed smoke from your best friend, concluding with the feeling of an out of breath shared moment between a long time crush laying soft flesh upon soft flesh in the close eyed fading consciousness of the rising sun waking dawn on “The End”. Now I’m not saying these guys will be our generations Eagles/Backman Turner Overdrive/Mott the Hopple/what-have-you but let us not sidestep the more than mere possibility they very well could be and given the chance to share a conversation in some sleazy bathroom stall with either Henley and the boys or these San Antonio homies, I’ll take the latter without question. It is time to start chipping away at the idea our generation lacks a substantial voice, The Rich Hands have given us forty-five minutes worth of reasons to believe they are the ones to do it.

 

While most of the album is a display in tempo manipulation, case and point “Junkie Queen,” –seriously, how many records did Elvin Bishop put out and never got it anywhere near as right as these guys have in nine songs–the strongest three minutes though is the Marshall Tuckeresque “I Can’t Go On” for closing us out not only by settling the experience with a calm in-it-togetherness but showing as well with pointed exemplification the full pendulum swing from potential to idols in their own right. Sure “I Gotta Move” comes off like a reshaping of “Transcendental Meditation,” “Summer Sun” borrowed from “Gimme Shelter,” the semblance lasts only long enough to almost place your finger on the similarities before taking off in a running ramble of swaying time felt by gypsy hearts. And this ultimately is the experience we could speak to of the entire album as a whole; a familiarity lies whenever the soul of their sound is given just enough breadth to speak for each facet individually only to slide back amongst the all in a fatalistic way.

 

When commenting on a band who remain still under the general social psyche what we find ourselves talking around most often is how this moment is guiding us to predict without certainty the possibility of near perfection we might see with the next one, What The Rich Hands are giving us is an anomaly in comparison in that Take Care is one of the only albums of the last ten years from those we rub shoulders with along this southern edge of Texas to not make us want to prop up the band on potential but to instead drop the needle on track one and wait for everyone around the party to start asking who the hell it is and to suggest we just keep playing it on repeat. To disregard such perfection would not only be an injustice to the band themselves but more so to the nucleus of thriving Rock N Roll we remain ever vigilante to prove all the more is far from over, far from irrelevant, and is anything but lacking the fresh blood of future saints. The album officially comes out on July 4th, you know Anon Mag will keep you up to date on the release show and other relevant information. In the meantime pre-order your copy here.