Denver band Brethren Fast have crawled out from under their beat-up Fords and brushed the road grit from their sideburns long enough to record their third album, 500 Laps of Beer Drinking Fun, and oh, was it worth it. 500 Laps is useful. Not only will this album make you get up and try some of those Soul Train moves you scrapped after the advent of New Wave, but it will also remind you to rotate your tires.
You see, the Brethren aren't interested in social commentary, environmental issues, sappy Karen Carpenter love songs or becoming the next 'N Sync. They're just good ol' American boys singing about what's important to them: fast cars and fast women. And with 500 Laps, they've expanded their interests to include bowling and Brethren Don Messina's really fast motorcycle.
Since the band's formation in 1995, "Dynomite" Don and his brother Mik "the Stik" Messina, along with drummer Gordon "P" Beasley, have raised singing about cars and speed to a high art. They've played relentlessly and have become one of the hottest acts in the Denver-Boulder club scene. The rigorous touring has created a fan base of thousands, lovingly referred to as "the Brethren Fast Racing Team." They say practice makes perfect, and 500 Laps of Beer Drinking Fun embodies the effects of this theory.
More polished than their last release, What in the Hell?, the new album is a well-crafted musical road trip down the cracked pavement of the funkabilly highway. Mik's '70s funk leanings gel smoothly with Don's rockabilly licks, and Gordon provides percussion with near-perfect timing.
Like the serial numbers on a rebuilt '70 Charger, no two tracks on 500 Laps are alike. Each song touches on a different subject, from dancing with "Knee Wiggler" or racing on "Gusoline," to reflections on how Don learned to bowl on "Squash That Bug." "77 Toranado," an ode to the band's good friend Greg Isles' favorite car, and "Greaseball Creeper," a song about the experience of changing oil, both possess relatively simple lyrics, but so do most of the songs on 500 Laps. Nobody's striving to win a Pulitzer with their poetic expressionism; they're simply having fun. Brethren Fast don't try to tug at your heart or make you think, they just want you to get down. Hard. The songs deliver their power in low-down, funkified rhythms. The guitar work is infectious. You can't help but move in time.
"Two Tone" -- a proper sendup to Mik's "mud-slingin', fire-breathin', mud-huggin' stump-jumpin' " '72 International pickup truck -- leaves the George Clinton funk at home for a little bit of down-home rockabilly, with jive piano work by Jeremy Lawton. Lawton also cuts his fingers loose on the groovy instrumental "Krazy Fingers." Funk, twang and a little bit of surf mix superbly on "The Bud Song," which has only one lyric -- bet you can guess what it is.
Not every song on the new album rocks so hard; one or two are pretty mellow. "Hot Toddy" is damn close to a ballad. Don Messina's strong, deep voice croons about love -- in a manly fashion, of course. The "Snapper Shuffle" is laid-back and would be great background music for drinking beer on the front porch.
Most bands that are worth a damn blow you away when you see them live, and Brethren Fast is certainly no exception. The boys will be getting down and funky at their CD release party at Jack Quinn's Saturday night Nov. 20. Be sure to check it out. C'mon!