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Naked Before God and Country
The magic of these intense songs is in their contradictions: abrasively melodic, visionary but destructive, callused yet vulnerable. Driving home these contrasts without a shred of artifice, singer Erik Sunday’s raw voice morphs naturally from a gravelly croon to a barroom shout. I love his in-your-face lyrics: socially incisive, politically corrosive, leavened with tongue-in-cheek wit. Raw, live-to-two-track unpasteurized analog, the band’s sound rips without an ounce of delicacy. Their shredding guitars, throbbing bass, and the piledriver drums literally rattled the floorboards in my studio. (#11502)
Erik Sunday: vocals, bass
IF YOU ENJOYED NAKED BEFORE GOD & COUNTRY, BE SURE TO CHECK OUT:
It’s always refreshing to stumble across a band that really embodies punk rock ethos: playing for the love of the music instead of acclaim and cash; for the deafening roar of the show; for the night’s worth of pints and crumpled cans that come pouring back through pores.
Baltimore’s National Razor is an unpretentious treat, unbridled punk rock that harks back to a sound from era’s past. Their 2006 release, Naked Before God and Country showcases that sound with reverberations from The Clash and, especially, The Ramones. Indeed, the track “1,2,3 Let’s Go,” in all it’s glue-sniffing glory, pays proper homage, naming Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny in the chorus, and finally lamenting their demise.
Tearing through 17 songs in under 40 minutes, National Razor tends to play fast, furious, and, above all, simply, but it’s always fun, too. This is the kind of band that plays small, unadorned clubs without barriers between crowd and stage, a band that might clink glasses with the audience between songs.
National Razor plays pleasantly grimy music, replete with catchy choruses and raucous sing-alongs. Jim Schaffer’s drumming is straightforward and fast, nothing overly impressive or showy, but that was never the point. Guitarists Dave Israel and Frank Burgess are both capable and wander off on the occasional short solo, and the melodies they so adeptly create belie the simplicity, the almost garage-band feel of the music. Bassist and lead vocalist Erik Sunday deserves the same praise, his playing complementing the music without needing to stand out, meanwhile proving himself a perfect fit for vocalist. His voice is more gritty than pretty, but whether yelling or singing, he can carry a tune.
Lyrically, this is a punk rock laundry list, but with an intelligent twist. Songs like “Depression,” “Dead Heroes,” and “Fool or Fucking Creep,” are bursts of disgruntled angst, “Avoiding You” hits love gone sour, while “Do You Wanna Get High Tonight?” and “Tear Me Down” address self-destructive tendencies, but a biting sense of humor is never abandoned (“And pray we never see HIV or OD / So how could our life be / one pathetic spelling bee”).
The obvious “just wanna rock” attitude of the band explains the choice to record live to two-track analog tape, dismissing any studio magic and gimmickry to pretty the music. As a result, the recording occasionally crackles and pops as instruments and vocals overdrive the mics, but this rawness adds credibility to the band’s punk rock persona.
I have the utmost respect for National Razor for being real – and being really good. Though nothing new, Naked Before God and Country is ironically refreshing for its unpretentiousness, and a listen nothing short of enjoyable.