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If Guided by Voices are the Beatles of the mid-'90s lo-fi scene, then the Grifters' big, bluesy racket could certainly qualify as the Stones. Deliberately noisy, sloppy, and out-of-tune, the band masks their melodies under a heavy static fuzz of distortion. Based in Memphis and definitely influenced by their surroundings, the Grifters recall as well the proto-lo-fi musings of Royal Trux and Half Japanese -- unlike GbV, who arrived at the lo-fi sound by simply recording pop songs at home on sub-standard equipment. Formed in the late '80s, initially as A Band Called Bud, with vocalist/guitarist Scott Taylor, bassist Tripp Lamkins, and drummer Dave Shouse, the band released only a single and an obscure tape consisting of front-room recordings. By the turn of the decade, Shouse had begun sharing songwriting and guitar chores with Taylor, while Stan Gallimore replaced him on drums. The four-piece debuted on vinyl with the 1990 single "Disfigurehead" on Doink Records. In 1992, the band issued their debut album, So Happy Together, on the evidently like-minded Sonic Noise label. The LP continued the Sonic Youth approach to punk prevalent on the initial recordings, though the following year's One Sock Missing showed a more mature Grifters -- that is, the songs were slower, but no less skewered with distortion and tape splices. The album was the first released on their own Shangri-La label, which has also issued a single from A Band Called Bud as well as recordings from Taylor's side-project, Hot Monkey.
With the ascension of Pavement and the emergence of Guided by Voices, the lo-fi scene became much more viable by 1994, especially in the world of indie rock. The Grifters' third album, Crappin' You Negative, emphasized the bluesy swagger that had been only understated before, and with the addition of somewhat proper melodies -- actually the repetition of jagged riffs -- the album became an underground hit. The band signed with Sub Pop later that year, and after the release of 1995's Eureka EP, issued Ain't My Lookout in 1996. Full Blown Possession followed in 1997. ~ John Bush
- Memphis, TN
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