Cable – Gutter Queen

4 out of 5

Produced by: Jeff Caxide

Label: Hydra Head

Cable’s Hydra Head debut is a rage-fest of lines like “you ain’t worth the shit you swallow” and a repeated berating of “what the fuck are you talking about?” topped with rumbling, terror-striking guitars and bass and thudding drums.  It’s also structurally dense, with the opening The Sunday Driver setting the precedent: starting with a detuned acoustic riff before launching into five minutes of stop/start hardcore dynamics and shifts.  And, in its last few tracks, it also manages to be surprisingly experimental, with a loose, almost jazzy jam (the two part Dot-Com); an improv rant over wandering instrument noodling; and the fairly sullen and muted Planet Caravan cover.  It’s the kind of release you’d only find on Hydra Head and its few peers back in the day, and the kind of tonal open-endedness that’s seemingly harder to deliver in a digitally-focused, ADD release world – an environment that possibly doesn’t lend itself to “growing up” in a music scene, and the organic playing styled that encourages, as it would’ve even ten years ago.  (And the award for analysis with the least basis in research goes to…)

Gutter Queen is many things, then, many of which are bloody awesome.  Later Cable releases had more of a Southern rock influence – equally awesome – but Gutter Queen captures the group at a stripped down (to three members) rawness, transitioning from punkier, yellier days into a sound that swings with equal power through straight ahead rockers (Human Interest Story), instrumental blasts (the aptly named Both Barrels) and the post-hardcore of Not Today, I’m Not., alongside the aforementioned experimentation.  If all the changeups makes sequencing sound difficult… well, yes.  Gutter Queen’s momentum hiccups a bit, especially when mid-song the group will completely shift gears, but the balance between the rough edges and the skill of the players wins you over to stay tuned.  Then, once you’re used to the hitches, you’re completely sold.

A classic HH release and one of several landmark albums from the band.