Falling somewhere between our “Back In The Day” feature, and a contemporary review, Old Scratch by the Trophy Wives nonetheless merits review as much today as it did upon its release approximately one year ago. The Trophy Wives have a seemingly endless work ethic, practicing and playing shows with a regularity that surpasses a number of their peers, myself included, and it shows on Old Scratch. Comprised of an impressive ex-members of list, Billy Bisig (guitar/vocals), Tony Ash (bass), and Geoff Patton (drums), deliver music unafraid to supplement musicality with indie-tinged riff-rock. Old Scratch delivers loud and unforgiving music made by people clearly informed by genre staples like Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, and the Jesus Lizard, and unafraid to show it. The end result is a romp down 90’s and early-00’s lane, replete with the flannel shirts, and fuzzed out guitars, like an endless summer of 92’, but with just a little more noise-rock influence. Grunge forever.
On Old Scratch, The Trophy Wives establish a balance that is equal parts harmony and grit, shifting between anthemic rockers, and almost tender melodies, all without losing much of their edge. The key word here is “almost,” in that in any instance that may be revealing or delicate, there is an ever-looming darkness that threatens to encroach on the levity of the moment, as if gradation is the opposite of energy. The fourth track “Crooked Cross” is an ideal example of this, as a song that relies on delayed out guitar, over a simple, but delightful melody that turns heel after the brief introduction to fall into a standard rock groove. That it is such a rare musical interlude underscores the intensity that The Trophy Wives seem apt to bring and maintain for the duration of Old Scratch, conjuring more often a fun night out drinking, than a pensive moment of reflection.
In fact, forward momentum seems to be the one common musical theme, as the opening track “Taste of Your Medicine” bombastically announces the album as propelled by staccato rhythms and power chord heavy, distorted guitar work. Here as in many places on Old Scratch, The Trophy Wives inform the listener that classic rock tropes are omnipresent and reign supreme. As such, subtlety is often exchanged for volume, and restraint is shunned in exchange for power. None of this to say that ever song is set to a break neck pace, as numerous mid-tempo, angst-ridden songs abound, but rather to say that a thick and foreboding instrumental presence takes precedent over every other element of the song. Closer “King Cab” punctuates Old Scratch, with an extended bass and drum groove set as the backbone to an angry screed against.. well… I guess Kings or Cabs. That it’s sung with such power though only reemphasizes both the specific importance of Bisig’s lyric, and the overall concept of Old Scratch, that one can be both aggressive and pop friendly in the right context and make it work.