February 16th, 2016 | Album reviews

Burger Records

Tracy Bryant’s solo album Subterranean is the sound of a serious writer and guitarist looking to add a few lines to an conversation that goes all the way back to the first person to plug in an unadorned Telecaster and wonder aloud about life. Indeed: the title track says, “Carry me, I carry you / anywhere I’m going to” and isn’t that lovely if that’s about life as a musician in the underground? Here, Bryant (also of Corners) sings a bit like Richard Hell, plays a bit like Robert Quine, draws a little from the same semi-mythical past that powered the Cramps and Gun Club and pulls it into the present like Rain Parade or Dream Syndicate did when they proved there was life yet in American rock guitar. As demonstated immediately on opener “Come Around,” this is a disciplined album, and it finds power both in discipline and in the instants where Bryant breaks ranks with some shock burst of noise. (Like spotting a rattlesnake in your backyard—it reminds you that the wild isn’t so far away.) Subterranean is as solid as they come for its first half—check the menacing “The Gun”—but something really kicks on “Start The Motor,” which is as obviously “pop” as it gets but which is so damn winning, and which leads into a suite that glides from Dolls-y rock (“I’m Never Gonna Be Your Man”) to Donovan-meets-the-Cramps downer “Want” to the urgent Dovers-style jangler “Tell You,” which is as 60s as it gets here. Some people use songs to write stories, other make self-portraits, but Subterranean is so sharp and clear its practically a photo … or maybe really a mirror?

—Chris Ziegler