The Geraldine Fibbers’ debut makes ears bleed. It also makes synapses explode and brains fry. And that’s a good thing. Not since Grant Lee Buffalo’s first outing in 1993 has an L.A. band been able to take on the roots and tweak it into something so completely, utterly original. Imagine a less-cerebral (if only slightly) Patti Smith fronting a band that fuses Sonic Youth din and a Velvety drone with a baroquian traveling minstrelish country-swingin’, punk-rock kinda thing.
Still confused? I don’t blame you. This is a tough, confusing record, both thematically and musically. The first battle is Carla Bozulich’s frantic warble, howling tales of agony and dim hope while standing at the gates of hell. Then there’s the music, driven by a grizzly mesh of violins, bowed basses and Thurston Moore guitarisms, kicks, scratches and gnarls repeatedly and incessantly. Passages — as symphonic as they are garagey — spread out across wide canvases and take their time metamorphosing from tense hushes into violent eruptions. The Fibbers juggle beauty and ugliness much like fellow Angelenos X once did. In fact, that’s where this record is truly rooted: in the street poetics of the Hollywood underground by way of some West Virginian backwoods on a planet five times more sinister than our own.
While it surely ain’t for everyone — traditional popsters and country folk need not apply — those up to the challenge will reap its rewards. Almost every song is equally as frenzied, emotionally draining and downright epic as the one before it, but none moreso than “Lilybelle” and “Get Thee Gone”, which, even while aping Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, manages to sound as if it’s rooted in that neverland lost somewhere between earth and the place the Fibbers call home.