“Drinking Under the Table”

What’s missing is the “You.” As in, Smokedog is drinking you under the table. Because somehow they’re still recording music here. Still standing. Maybe still … smoking? Or maybe they’re too insular a bunch, and they really are drinking under the table, with their recording equipment, encased in a perennial cocoon out of sight of everybody else that happens to be around at any given time. They’re too busy in their own heads, they have no time for you wandering around the kitchen looking for the bottle opener.

Smokedog, from Athens, Georgia, is so not R.E.M. that it’s not funny, and \\NULL|ZØNE// is so not IRS that it’s stupid. There are thirty-nine free-associative tracks here, ranging from noise experiments, spoken-word between-song live banter, live renditions of songs (all of which are simply “Untitled”), smoky blues experiments, blues experiments, smoky fusion experiments, live half-jams, shamanic nocturnal seshes, acoustic asides, more hairy blues, and all of this is sort of pieced together in a, I want to say, intentional way, but I’m not sure. It’s like if Tonstartssbandht’s music got into a car accident with itself (the music, not the ’Bandht) and fragmented in a bunch of directions. Also if Tonstartssbandht was more into the Dead instead of High Rise and International Harvester. There’s some actual accessible rock music of the classic vein here! The ’Dog’s gettin’ in, gettin’ out, and somehow it works.

But whatever, intentional or not, you can make the case that Drinking Under the Table makes perfect sense how it’s presented, where songs don’t begin or end but are instead entered in medias res and cut mid-riff. It’s a weird, and dare I say bold, experiment, bringing blues music into the realm of noise and just letting it sit uncovered in the microwave until it overheats and explodes and makes a mess that’s impossible to clean up. Maybe that’s Smokedog’s motto: “Making messes you can’t clean up.” Or maybe it’s “R.E.M. is for suckers.” What do I know. Drinking ended up being a lot more extroverted than I expected it to be. Smokedog’s more on top of the table, nude, thrashing instruments, horrifying their roommates. Drinking you under the table, because for some reason you think you can win.


-- Ryan Masteller