Cleopatra 2020

Two To One

Grizzled punk icons grit their collective teeth and channel their energy through time and space.

When RADIO BIRDMAN co-founder Deniz Tek and THE STOOGES’ guitarist James Williamson conspired to serve up the “Acoustic K.O.” EP back in 2017, it looked like a one-off collaboration – an outlet for four of the latter’s old songs, but it struck a resounding chord with the former and set the veterans on a common course. Or collision course if you will – as this album’s cover seems to suggest – yet there’s no calamity in sight; on the contrary, their first full-length record exudes well-restrained vim which many a younger artist could never harness.

The duo’s combined pedigree doesn’t say anything about the pieces they perform together, though, and while there’s no joint effort, writing-wise, between the two, what each of them brings to the table makes the results quite intoxicating. Deniz’s pop sensibility may seem to juxtapose James’ serrated edge yet, in fact, their styles complement one another perfectly on such hard-rocking tracks as opener “Jet Pack Nightmare” whose effervescent riff, spaghetti-western-like solo and husky vocals lodge themselves into the listener’s lobes from the off and refuse to let go even when “Liar” steals a twangy hook from a Ray Davies’ book for Williamson to sprinkle gravel all over it but also gives it a transparent, typically Tek-ian twist.

The pair wrap “Progress” in infectious rockabilly licks and kick “Stable” back to the proto-punk period only to append an arena chorus to its clubby, piano-sprinkled chug, whereas the organ-oiled roar and six-string assault of “Birthday Present” pack a cinematic punch. There’s a booming menace in the sharpened harmonies of “Good As Gone” and a tender intent behind the sluggish crunch of “Take A Look Around” – yet the metal sheen of “Climate Change” reflects topical angst on a sweet refrain. So if the dirge in “No Dreams” could be “No Fun” thrown into the gloomy future, the acoustically-tinctured “Small Change” serves up a slice of bluesy harmonica for hope to reign in here, and CD-only “Melissa Blue” offers a romantic finale for a folksy contrast with the urban grit of preceding tracks.

It’s an immensely tasty opus, so here’s hoping “One” in its title doesn’t mean there would be be no follow-up: the two have to deliver another platter – the sooner the better.


November 21, 2020

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