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Dark Meat - Universal Indians

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Artist: Dark Meat

Album: Universal Indians

Label: Cloud Recordings

Review date: Oct. 29, 2006

Universal Indians isn’t a punk record, thirsty for the blood of its forebears. It isn’t a “deep fried,” horn-infused hybrid of stadium rock and R&B. It isn’t a mad, loud, dirty smokestack with a misty eye for Halo of Flies. It’s not a long-form channeling of Crazy Horse’s trucker mysticism. And it’s not an experimental record. It does share ground with all of the aforementioned conceits. But it’s a rock record, straight up. And it’s a great one.

Like any great straight-up rock record, it introduces itself with a monumental one-two. Exile On Main Street had “Rocks Off” and “Rip This Joint;” Universal Indians, the first ‘un from the festive Georgia-via-NC outfit Dark Meat, has “Freedom Ritual” (a seven-minute cleanser that knows how to balance catharsis and vertigo) and “Well Fuck You Then” (a swaggering shout-along ode to domestic turbulence best heard repeatedly, with a cheap sixer at hand).

If Dark Meat kept up this clip, the album would get exhausting, then predictable, then imminently forgettable. But Dark Meat is smarter than that. “Dead Man” provides the vital track-three turning point, a gospel steamer with hungover self-loathing so deep it’s environmentally hazardous. (“The fish slept on the ocean / And the gulls all did die / And the boats smashed the piers / But you can’t murder meat.”)

It remains ever interesting, even as it keeps the angry energy simmering. “Three Eyes Open” disintegrates into an Albert Ayler-ish noise-fest. “Angel of Meth” could be a country song, as no other genre knows so well the pathos in a horrifying, hilarious drunk story. It could be, but it isn’t, quite, because it doesn’t quite want to be, and is thus doubly impressive. The hits keep coming, with the cryptic, oddly syncopated barnburner “Assholes For Eyes” stashed next-to-last, when the party’s most vulnerable.

Who’s to say whether it’ll make some shitheel’s top 10 list, or whether an entire scene of immense, loosely defined rock bands (with lots of brass, backup singers and mile-wide senses of humor) will grow around it? When an album comes out with this many highlights, the water’s still good (if not clear) down Athens way.

By Emerson Dameron

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