There’s usually a perfectly good reason why certain time-coded kinds of music (rockabilly, Dust Bowl folk, Delta blues) reach extinction, and the perfectly good reason why most revivalists are so insufferable is because they just can’t accept it, convinced they’re engaging something that’s still viable while the rest of us chase after fads that would wither before the anthologizing powers of Martin Scorsese, let alone Alan Lomax.
Blessedly, Glasgow’s black-hearted Sons and Daughters seem to know they’re fetishists, and thusly recognize the distinction between fun, stylized art project, and dull, hectoring didactics. As with labelmates Clinic, S&D’s gimmick—Scots playing dark folk-rock that seethes with a formalized lust and violence to mark it wholly out of time—has been perfectly subsumed and absorbed, so any potential irony to be gleaned from the geographical and temporal dislocations doesn’t have room to escape. Instead, The Repulsion Box boasts just simple, monochromatic stomp, only 31 minutes of it too (earning some of the brevity brownie points previously awarded only to Edan this year).
The music coupled with Adele Bethel’s prickly burr is actually quite (pardon my lazy cultural signifier) dead sexy, but the words are firmly anti-sex, the ugly underbelly of lust and possession. “Rama Lama” is the centerpiece, an epic murder ballad and the second song this year (after Wide Right’s “Taking the Fifth”) to steal the bassline from “Psycho Killer.”
Of course, given S&D’s lockstep dynamics and (welcome) refusal to legitimize their craft, The Repulsion Box is also 2005’s least surprising disc, which just means in order to get the full effect you have to listen to it brutally loud. At night. While driving very fast on a highway. Only then can you truly understand Sons and Daughters’ purposeful mindlessness. Be glad it’s not the other way around.