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Denton’s Finest

Submitted by on June 2, 2010 – 2:46 pm2 Comments

Uncut is not the best monthly music magazine by any means, but it isn’t the worst. I started buying it in around 2000/2001, on the recommendation of a mate and because it had a free compilation cd of the month’s best music (in their opinion of course) on the cover. These cds looking back had a lot of crap on, but it was worth tripping over the big pile of them I’d accumulated over time (no sleeve wallets, they came in proper boxes, which came in handy as spares if any of the covers of my proper albums had a crack in), as they introduced me to one band in particular: Centro-Matic.

Centro-Matic are for all intents and purposes one man: Will Johnson. He writes all the songs for the group and many others that he releases under his own name and the alias South San Gabriel (who are basically Centro-Matic, but acoustic). They could be described as an Indie band, but that wouldn’t be doing them justice (especially in 2010, when the term has become pretty much irrelevant anyway). Their sound obviously takes great influence from the lo-fi indie rock of the late 80s/early 90s of bands like Guided By Voices and Pavement. The songs appear unfinished and primitive in places, with feedback and tape hiss enhancing the feel and sound of their work in a similar vein to those that influenced them. The band come from a working class background in Denton (that’s Denton, Texas I’m afraid) and this southern upbringing shines through in their work. The songs have a country tinge to them which give the sound an emotional and warm feel, whilst stopping short of being overly sentimental. Will Johnson’s southern accent and the lo-fi, unfinished nature of the recording help prevent this and allow the band to get the balance just right between emotive country and harsh, rough round the edges indie.

The band’s output along with Johnson’s solo work is extensive to say the least. There have been ten Centro-Matic albums, four under the name South San Gabriel and two solo albums (along with a recent third alongside alt-country singer songwriter Jason Molina) since their first in 1996. They have also toured incessantly throughout their existence, with Johnson often doing shows alone frequently as well. His more quiet and introspective solo work appears to have taken more of a priority in recent years, which from a personal point of view is a bit of a shame, as I feel others (many of which he seems to know and associate with such as Molina) do it better. The last couple of Centro-Matic releases have also been a bit of a disappointment, sounding a little too polished for my liking and lacking the rawness of their earlier work. So, if I were to recommend one album I’d suggest 2000′s ‘All The Falsest Hearts Can Try’, which sees the full band at the peak of their powers. It can probably be found in Vinyl Exchange for a couple of quid, as sadly I seem to see loads of their stuff being sold for next to nothing in there every time I go in. Alternatively if you’re tight, lazy and are fine with listening to music on a computer all their stuff is on Spotify.

2 Comments »

  • fuzzy dunlop says:

    i started buying uncut magazine late 90′s(big new order interview for their comeback of sorts) but stopped buying it a couple of years ago due to it starting to read like ‘mojo’ magazine, a bit proggy/established bands centric. ‘the word magazine’ is going the same way though in the style of ‘the new yorker’

    any reco’s regarding a decent music mag appreciated

  • Matt says:

    Yeah, it’s a shame it’s gone downhill. I’m struggling to find a decent magazine now too. Plan B was good (although it’s now finished), despite being unashamedly hipstery and pretentious. Wire is probably the best around now, but is perhaps even more pretentious and focuses mainly on electronic music. Also the Pitchfork website is always worth looking at, but again very hipstery.

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