By Eleni P. Austin
Trying to find a quick cure to combat the mid-winter blues? Call off the search, a musical elixir has arrived courtesy Sir Madam. It’s their freshly released debut, Crooked Teeth.
Following the Blues/Punk Rock paradigm pioneered by the White Stripes and Black Keys, Sir Madam is a bare-bones duo, who pack a powerful punch. But rather than hew to the monochromatic method those bands established, Sir Madam’s music feels like a sunburst of technicolor.
Officially formed in 2011, Sir Madam, is a collaboration between longtime friends, guitarist/vocalist Kishori Holiday and drummer Andrew Garza. Both had cycled through a series of Southern California bands before realizing they were musical soulmates.
The album gets off to a rollicking start with the title track. Anchored by a rattlesnake-shake rhythm and thick, fuzz-tastic power chords, the song could be a California cousin to the Stones’ epochal “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
On both “Gotcha Wantcha” and “Decent Man” Holiday challenges the status quo and champions authenticity. The former is a mid-tempo howler, powered by a walloping backbeat and reverb-drenched riffs. Holiday warns a lover that she won’t sacrifice her principles… “I’ll be the one who will lay my body down, I’ll be the one who will tear my hair out/I’ll be the one who will let all my veins bleed out.”
The latter is accented by bludgeoning tilt-a-whirl riffs that collide with pummeling percussion. The lyrics portray a woman who lives her life with no apologies… “She’s no hired girl, she’s no just-made, She’s no woman of the town/Not unstrung, not unmarried, a maidservant to one man.”
Not every track on Crooked Teeth is a balls to the wall (ovaries to the wall?) rocker. “My Dear My Darling” is a cracked country waltz. Over strummy guitars and a stutter cadence, Holiday sweetly croons, reassuring her true love that long absences only strengthen their bond.
Tinkling wind chimes and ominous guitar chords open “Black Moon.” As the melody locks into a crushed velvet groove, the lyrics detail a moonlight ritual…”And all the witches dance beneath the black night moon/And circled fire put out all the spirits doom.”
“Dorothy May” paints a sepia-toned portrait of an enigmatic femme fatale who had “an array of beauty.” The instrumentation, mandolin-like filigrees and subdued percussion, perfectly compliment this tender tableau.
Other stand out tracks include; the outlaw tale of “Man Down.” Here Garza pounds a triple time tattoo as Holiday unleashes tsunami-size riffs that peak, crest and crash.
“Come Around” is equally ferocious. Garza’s thundering beats take center stage as Holiday’s serpentine riffs snake through the sandblasted melody.
The album closes with the frenetic twist and shout of “Love Song.” Garza’s rumbling backbeat provides ballast, allowing Holiday to shift from Surf-guitar sonics to Spaghetti Western licks. It’s a satisfying tour de force.
This is a nearly perfect debut. Kishori Holiday’s playing is sharp and concise. Her vocals recall the take-no-prisoner style of progenitors like Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde and Exene Cervenka. Andrew Garza isn’t content to simply keep time. He pounds his kit with economy and authority.
Crooked Teeth was produced by Scott Holiday, (Rival Sons leader and guitar-slinger extrodinaire). The album was recorded and mixed in an astonishing three days!
Crackling with intensity, Holiday and Garza have crafted an audacious debut. Sir Madam has come up with the first great album of 2014.