Inflammatory debut from much-vaunted Detroit quintet
Much has been made of the Blanche-White Stripes connection?frontman Dan Miller and wife Tracee playing in late-’90s Detroit bands Goober And The Peas and Two Star Tabernacle with Jumpin’ Jack W; Dan directing the “Hotel Yorba” vid; the Stripes covering “Who’s To Say”?and the leg-up has proven invaluable. Arriving on the back of a hugely successful UK tour with their old muckers,…Doctors is an agitated howl of a record, both justifying the hype and whittling a singular identity. Dripping with creepy invention, it’s both rollicking and tender, wild of fringe but fragile of heart. Or, as the band themselves put it: “a dolled-up meeting of The Stepford Wives and a Lawrence Welk gospel special”. Co-producers Brendon Benson, Warn Defever and Blanche multi-instrumentalist David Feeny inject urgency throughout, particularly on the hateful roil of “Garbage Picker” and the Gun Club’s “Jack On Fire”. The playing is sinewy?Feeny’s preening pedal-steel; Patch Boyle’s high-in-the-mix banjo, tricksy as a cactus?while Dan’s sour-mash delivery counterpoints Tracee’s breathy pout perfectly. The softly-stroked “Another Lost Summer” and “Bluebird” are exceptional, highlighting both the deep human affection and disquieting horror inherent in old-time country. Standout, however, is “Who’s To Say”: despite Jack White’s guitar solo and Boyle’s sweet plucking, Miller’s clammy tale of unrequited obsession is as sweatily claustrophobic as John Cale’s Velvet Underground epic “The Gift”. The garage-country revival starts here.