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Spider Bags - Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Cruel World

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Artist: Spider Bags

Album: Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Cruel World

Label: Birdman

Review date: Aug. 18, 2009

The Spider Bags is the road not taken by indie-rock bands of the early aughts. Mike Sniper skipped to the head of the current class of guitar anti-heroes with Blank Dogs and a squadron of soundalikes on Captured Tracks. But Dan McGee not only skipped out on the new reigning sound of his former DC Snipers leader, he skipped town altogether and didn’t stop until Chapel Hill. In 2007, Spider Bags showed what the other fork sounds like with the raunchy, candid, and intoxicating alt-country romps of A Celebration of Hunger. Infused directly with moonshine, McGee substituted the mystery-laden distortion of his Northern counterparts with bawdy sing-alongs and bar anthems.

In the two years it’s taken for Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Cruel World, however, something has definitely soured. The devil-may-care enthusiasm of earlier songs “Blood for You” and “Bleed for You’ have given way to straight up fatalism on “Trouble” and “Dishrag.” McGee used to look on the bright side in songs like “Waking Up Drunk,” singing “Waking up drunk makes me happy / lately you just bring me down.” Now he’s whining “Baby, baby my job’s a drag / and you know my life’s a mess / you’re the best thing I ever had / why you always have to be a dishrag” and hitting rock bottom. Drunken self-pity is most definitely not as fun as drunken selfishness.

Some kind of homesick blues is the main affliction that’s causing the Spider Bags’ sound to slowly creep back north. Self-taught bluesmen and raunchy country derelicts used to dominate their take on Americana. Now, it’s the self-taught blue-collar influence of New Jersey that has a grip on the heart ‘n guitar strings. More than a few similarities from the Boss in his 1980s hey day come through, as well as the punk leanings of his wannabe heirs, the Gaslight Anthem. And while the Hold Steady have been advocating positivity in the bar, Spider Bags is intent on providing the negative foil for the more destructive side of the bottle.

Now that McGee seems to be taking responsibility for his actions, the antics aren’t as fun. The most sobering moment, in every sense of the word, comes on the album’s closing chorus, with McGee intoning “Never get out of here now,” over a distorted acoustic guitar and a rickety piano. For perhaps the first time, there’s a real sense of clarity that makes the song so gorgeously delicate. But there’s also a distinct sense of finality and loss. It seems like the magic might actually be gone for good.

By Evan Hanlon

Other Reviews of Spider Bags

A Celebration Of Hunger

Shake My Head

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View all articles by Evan Hanlon

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