Personnel: Alicja Trout (guitar); John Bonds (drums).
Recording information: Dial Back Sound, Water Valley, MS (2011-2012).
Photographer: Jamie Harmon.
Alicja Trout has no trouble keeping herself busy as she juggles her various music projects and creative occupations, enough so that six years separated the fine sophomore album from her band River City Tanlines, I'm Your Negative, and their third long-player, 2012's Coast to Coast. It's not hard to sense the passage of time on Coast to Coast; while this is an album of tough and unapologetic rock & roll, it also sounds more refined and contemplative than River City Tanlines' previous albums, and though the lyrics don't directly address the major life events of those six years off (including becoming a parent and dealing with the death of her former bandmate and boyfriend Jay Reatard), this music reveals, for lack of a better word, a greater "maturity" than I'm Your Negative. The songs on Coast to Coast are less frantic than in the past, and the music sounds tighter and neater overall, but Trout still has a real knack for lean, catchy melodies dotted with pop hooks, and her guitar work kicks some serious butt, laying out thick, muscular rhythm lines along with leads and solos that give the music plenty of color and drama. Bassist Terrence Bishop and drummer John Bonds provide all the backup Trout needs, delivering plenty of rhythmic propulsion and a strong bottom end, and this power trio connects like a clenched fist on tracks like "You Shot Me" and "Can You Handle This Heart." And longer tracks like "Dark Matter" and "Waiting for Nothing" show River City Tanlines have learned to do something most garage punk acts never manage -- stretch out a song and cut a groove, while showing they know something about dynamics and pacing. If you dig vintage hard rock and garage punk, River City Tanlines have plenty to offer, but on Coast to Coast, they deliver a whole lot more besides, and they show it's possible to grow and evolve without forgetting how to have fun and bring the rock. When Trout sings that all the good music is 40 years old, she's clearly not including Coast to Coast. ~ Mark Deming