Despite the abundance of guitars within the band, for the sessions for the latest album, "Straight Freak Ticket," Love Battery borrowed even more from everyone they knew in the greater Seattle area . For a band with their history and esteem within the local scene, this means there were a lot of guitars being passed around. "We called every friend of ours who had a cool guitar and borrowed what we could. We were like kids in a candy store," says vocalist/guitarist/lyricist Ron Nine. The result is an album brimming with sounds and tones and new details surfacing with subsequent listenings. |
Yet you can have a million guitars (and a million bucks), but if a band doesn't have the ear for a good tune and the sense to write a good song, who cares? Love Battery have the ears and the sense.
Love Battery write songs. Crafted, melodic, poppy, with lots of guitars; the songs have always been in Love Battery's repertoire. Their three Sub Pop albums, however, were rather uneven, with a wall of sound tending to wash over the melodies. At times this was a conscious effort to experiment with noise in pop, as on the "Dayglo" album, but mostly it was lack of studio time and budget to polish their ideas. The giant leap forward on "Straight Freak Ticket" is attributable primarily to the luxury of two months in the studio playing all those guitars; their own and borrowed. "I think we've always envisioned a giant Battery sound, " says Nine. "Whether it made it on to our past records or not is a different matter. This band has been on the road so much that we never had the chance to stretch out and record the way we wanted to. We finally had the chance to take some time and evolve." He continues, "We took advantage of the chance to experiment with sounds, equipment, arrangement and tried to make each new song sound different. Basically we piled on the guitar and vocal tracks until we felt we'd exhausted all the possibilities. There's a lot of stuff going on in the mix."
Bruce Calder (who has worked with Green River, George Clinton and Miles Davis) produced. He encouraged the band to experiment while his experience kept them focused. He struck a balance which keeps all the sounds flowing without cluttering. "The thing we worked hardest on was arrangements," says bassist Bruce Fairweather. "We wanted to create something that people could listen to for a long time." Adds Nine, "David Bianco (Teenage Fanclub, Rollins Band) gave us some brilliant mixes. On an album like this one, the mixes were as crucial as the performances."
The Love Battery sound is born of that famous dank Seattle atmosphere that makes the young people tune their guitars down and turn the volume up. Songs are built on thick, dense rhythms, but while most of their famous peers veer toward metal-tinged aggression, Love Battery turn the tension into catchy. Fairweather and Dan Peters, also the drummer for Mudhoney, lay the foundation upon which Nine and Kevin Whitworth layer their guitars and intertwine them with the vocal melodies, creating a swirling and atmospheric sound. Invariably reviews make comparisons to The Beatles, Blue Cheer, Sonic Youth and the Screaming Trees. Certainly Love Battery have a sixties influence and have been known to cover songs by The Troggs and Neil Young as well as modern bands like Gang of Four and The Pixies. Their amalgamation of cross-generational/decadational sound inspires writers to create descriptions like "noise pop," "grungedelic" and "psychedelic assault," although it is the emphasis on harmony vocals on "Straight Freak Ticket" which really opened the floodgates of psych- and -delic pre- and post-fixes.
"Love Battery is the last great undiscovered first generation Seattle band, " stated one posting on the Internet, a sentiment shared by many Northwest rock fans. Ever since the first single on Sub Pop, "Between the Eyes" in 1989, Love Battery has been considered one of Seattle's top bands and their records made them critics darlings, even if they didn't chart in Billboard. Six years of constant touring around the country and the world and three Sub Pop albums were spent distilling their sonic concoction before Atlas Records in 1994 offered Love Battery major label support and artistic freedom to turn on a bigger crowd. They signed. "Straight Freak Ticket" is the album which will be heralded as one of those turning points in the band's career, a release that will later be alluded to as their first step into the big time. For fans this album was the best of both worlds: a great album where all the parts finally came together at the same time, but you could still see Love Battery in a club.