Review: “Yeah, I Carve Cheetahs” by Restavrant
Los Angeles-based roots rock and electro trash duo Restavrant have created a visionary and positively indiosyncratic sound which involves both sides of the musical coin, so to speak. With bluesy slide guitar and countrified pickin’, gritty megaphone vocal delivery, harmonica, the layers provided by loop station programming, the catchy electric vibe of a keyboard, and the clank, tap and stomp of a junkyard drum kit, these two churn out something that is equal parts organic and mechanical, and equal parts rustic and urban. In nearly every way this is a combo that should not work, but somehow it does. It works remarkably well, in fact; so much so that Restavrant are now preparing to release the follow-up to their well-received 2008 debut Returns to the Tomb of Guiliano Medidici, at last. The upcoming album is titled Yeah, I Carve Cheetahs, of all things, and it is slated for a January 10, 2012 release from Hillgrass Bluebilly Records.
Yeah, I Carve Cheetahs finds Restavrant’s Troy Murrah and J State in the process of honing their highly experimental songcrafting even further, and thus surpassing the astonishing musical feats of their debut. Cheetahs has a bit more six-string fury and trashed-up energy, some stronger rhythms and bolder riffs, harder hitting beats, and increasingly intricate song structures in general than Returns. Out of the album’s twelve tracks, there are a few that I particularly appreciate, like “Six Years,” “Fight Myself,” “Bev D,” the title track “Yeah, I Carve Cheetahs,” “Oakley Shades,” and “Lie o’ My Life.” And of course there is the one cover song on the album, CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising,” a much covered tune, to be sure, but it is likely the most peculiar and daring version to date.
In Hillgrass Bluebilly Records’ press release on the album, they state that they are proud to “…unleash Restavrant’s second full length album Yeah, I Carve Cheetahsfor guaranteed heavy rotation on your various listening devices.” That was quite a prophetic statement; after all, the album has been in my player for the better part of two weeks, with only brief deviations to sample other newly acquired albums. But I keep returning to it, just as I imagine all of you who obtain copies of your own undoubtedly will.
Though they are currently residing in Los Angeles, California, Troy Murrah (guitar, banjo, harp, vocals) and J State (junk kit, other percussion, microKorg, and back-up vocals) hail from Victoria, Texas. Both locales are represented in Restavrant’s music in all of their differing points, from the Crossroads country and blues of Victoria to the melting pot music of Los Angeles. They have also played a number of gigs in both cities, and their wild sets, invariably followed by vigorous applause, have been highly appreciated by both audiences. And their albums, the content of which being all too similar to their live material, have also been met with the same level of appreciation.
Restavrant’s Yeah, I Carve Cheetahsis one of those rare follow-up albums that I find better than the one that came before it. And I, as a big fan of this duo, can only hope that this trend continues for future releases.
Incidentally, the boys have a handful of upcoming shows in support of Cheetahs. Most of the shows, to the disappointment of those fans who reside here on the east coast, are in the west. At a couple of the January shows, Restavrant will be sharing the bill with the side project of J.D. Wilkes of Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, The Dirt Daubers, and the Two Man Gentleman Band.
*This review originally appeared in The National Examiner, December 23, 2011
*Photo (above) by Jonathan Kim (appeared in Huff Post Los Angeles, June 10, 2010)