Gulch - Uphill Both Ways
Self released
Groove Rock
11 songs (44'13")
Release year: 2009
Reviewed by Alex

Once in a while a man has a desire to unwind. To drop all of what is sophisticated, and get all down’n’dirty. In metal the equivalent would be to forget all things progressive and convoluted and dive into some groovy riff-oriented rock. In the case of Wichita, Kansas, Gulch one should not, however, confuse the lack of refinement with primitivism or inferior quality. Not fancy does not necessarily mean not intelligent. As I often tell my wife, if you wear torn dirty jeans to work it does not mean that your company is in the dumps.

In Uphill Both Ways Book Bros. & Co. created an album which has got to connect with people of multiple walks of life as long as they don’t call plugged electric guitar an audio-torture. Here is one band that would not be afraid to load into a van and drive to play in the bar near you, to an audience of five or five hundred, with or without somebody to share the stage. It is just that degree of openness and candor which is emanating from this album.

Gulch do well setting up their song construction real simple and tight. Yes, it is a couple of verses, chorus, solo, another chorus or two, you catch the drift. But shouldn’t barroom rock be like that to appeal on the real subconscious level? At the same time the band navigates skillfully between choppy chords (Watching Old Friends Die), galloping (Born to Burn), more reserved (The Moment) and heavier southern fried bogged down swampy feel (the end of Born to Burn, A Phone Call Away). Some of these cuts are absolutely perfect for driving on the crisp summer morning, Tweak being catchy as hell. Gulch has even a little bit of ZZ Top groove in them, but fans of Black Label Society, biker gangs, those who preferred Pantera be less heavy, and everybody enjoying NOLA disciples, such as Down and Crowbar, would feel right at home with Uphill Both Ways. To seal the deal, the band closes the proceedings with Ted Nugent cover of Just What the Doctor Ordered, declaring their allegiances openly. Dean Book’s voice is legible enough to make out the lyrics, yet he is properly whiskey soaked and rough-edged not to feel phony. Staying mostly within his limits, Dean is not afraid to stretch himself and go out of tune at times (So Much for Good Intentions, Lifehog). Bass leads the way in Edge and when the riffs get way too much metallic feel about them, Gulch knows how to loosen up, throwing in jam-filled, spandex-stretchy, somewhat bluesy solos.

If I am not completely in agreement with the fuzzy groovy rock of Gulch on the musical level, I absolutely laud their lyrical message, and Dean’s blue-collar bark helps in this regard. As a fellow Midwesterner, I often see how many of our towns are being devastated with alcohol and drug abuse. Devoid of hope, especially in these economic times, young people are trying to drown their existence in booze, coke and methamphetamines. Gulch talks about this scourge front and center. And should we forget about the destructive effect substance abuse could bring, some recent studies showed that more than 50% in Russian deaths in mid-90s were alcohol related. 3 million people lost their lives, comparable to some full-fledged war. Socioeconomic despair is what drives some of our youth to the brink. Gulch talking about it, playing their songs in the same bars these guys use to fill up to their eyeballs may be the moment of awakening to some. And if it is one person who would rather rock than shoot something up their nose, the goal has been achieved.

Killing Songs :
Watching Old Friends Die, Tweak, Born to Burn, Edge
Alex quoted 69 / 100
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