Friday, July 28, 2006

The Pontiac Brothers: Doll Hut LP (Frontier Records/1985)

Hoist one for The Pontiac Brothers -- the Ward Dotson - Matt Simon post-Gun Club escape from L.A. band. If I remember my schoolin', "Doll Hut" refers to a place the band would stay at while on the East Coast roadhouse dive in Anaheim and that seems appropriate for a record that simultaneously celebrates the freedom of the road while pining for the comforts (and commitments) of home.

What it is music-wise is basic non-retro "smart" rock and roll circa 1985 - meaning they were just as aware of The Replacements and Husker Du as they were of The Rolling Stones, Hank Williams and Elvis. Trying to peg 'em down any further as some have tried (roots, alt-country, alternative, pre-grunge) is an exercise in futility. Just enjoy 'em.

Maybe not as good songs as the bands above but thankfully they remained just enough off the popindiegrind-grid that they still remain fresh yo so many years later.

Your basic P. Bros set-up is like this: "the world is fucked / I am fucked / you are fucked / so let's go home together and fuck"...

So, kick off yer regular guy shoes, pour a drink, preferably beer, put your feet up and light up a stick if you are so inclined. Ladies and Gents and Lowlifes, your long wait is over. Presentinnnng once again for consideration in their rightful place in the rock'n'roll-o-sphere, The Pontiac Brothers...

"Out In The Rain" - Protagonist wants to go home but has been kicked out for being a drunk/junkie/asshole, etc. He compares his plight with the homeless and then finds someone else who also stuck out in the rain. Things still suck but it's a tad better to share your misery with someone. Earthbound as P. Bros were, this song was about as Husker as they got, though despite the song content, only half as miserable. Sample lyric grab:
I like you alright babe
but there's no one to blame
to be left out in the rain
we got left out in the rain
ah, wasted in the rain
"Keep The Promise" - Commitment is a two-way street. So why is that backstabbin' Joe hanging around here? "Got the feelin'/Something's broken/And I'm the reason why" Like the Replacements, with a bendy guitar solo and some soulful singing from Matt Simon.

"Almost Human" - Misogyny was never this catchy (well, besides current rap music). Maybe it is and maybe it isn't but it's about the only song that's stayed with me over the years besides the "Be Married Song" (which appears on another album). For some reason, it bubbles to the top of my conciousness at those times when I'm most frustrated with members of the opposite sex. Is the girl's treachery/witchery/betrayal/thoughtlessness half full or half empty is the question? Specially when "she steps up to ya and gives you a kiss from the lips that never miss." And yes. I know that's a corny line. But rock is full of great songs with corny lyrics. The song most like the Stones although lacks any pop pretensions - think "deep cut" on Exile.

Ward and Matt, Pontiac Brothers, 1980s
Picture by me...

Band line-up:
  • Matt Simon - vocals
  • Ward Dotson - guitar
  • Jon Wahl - guitar
  • Kurt Bauman - bass
  • D. A. Valdez - drums
Final Rounds:
  • Ward Dotson killed the Pontiac Brothers around 1988 and (along with Matt Simon back on drums, his original instrument) formed Liquor Giants. Dotson was heard to proclaim during a Gun Club tribute in 2002 "this is it, he's had it with music, he ain't playing live anymore"
  • At any rate, Liquor Giants recorded two albums on Matador in the late '90s and turned up last in 2000 on an Australian label, sans Matt Simon. There was a final P. Bros album released in 1992, again on their old pal's label, Frontier. Trouser Press said about their swansong: "the album retains the balance of beery abandon and wounded introspection that originally made the band special"...
  • Related to this, check out the vinyl rip of "Sex Beat" on The Crutch. While I don't partake in the Jeff Lee Pierce corpse worship that became fashionable after death, "Sex Beat" is my fave song (and it's pretty much everyone else's except the Gun Club snobs). Pierce was okay but had he lived, he probably would have been as unbearable as that guy from Jane's Addiction. At any rate, that's Ward Dotson on slide guitar. "Move!"


Anonymous said...

Actually the Doll Hut (was) is a old Roadhouse type bar in Anaheim Ca. In the mid 1980's it was a dive to hang out at later it went on to book live music and became a popular place to go.

Jim H said...

I heard wrong then thanks for that California history. I looked it up on and found a page in the L.A. Musical history tour - here

Jack Black said...

Kinda like a more punk Ohia / Magnolia Electric Company - missed them the first time. Thanks.

Phil Dauphinee said...

wondering if Ward Dotson of The GunClub lived in Canoga Park,Ca. on Danny Boyer Ave.'62-'64. Had a next door neighbor by that name(me-born '60 Him ,as well,I think)

Erwin van Damme said...

Hello, has Kurt Bauman ever visited Europe in 1978? If so he has visited my home there and I would like to get in toch again. My name is Erwin van Damme. e.vandamme at ziggo dot nl. If anyone knows how to get in toch with him please let me know.