There’s something intriguingly old-school about “Bad Tattoos”—the hand-constructed beat, with its slightly fuzzy and very insistent bass line; those penny-whistle synth bursts; and a female lead singer full of soul and swagger, who happens to perform with the name Jimi Hendrix. At the same time, the song’s sonic landscape and general drive feels entirely of our 21st-century moment. While rock’n’roll may be past the point of reinventability, there is the occasional band that comes along and gives it a good ride. The Portland sextet Thanks appears to be one of these bands. If nothing else, how often, I am realizing as I listen to this, do you hear a stompy, minor-key rocker these days? Not very often, I assure you.
I like too how embedded and cloaked the guitar work is here; more than a minute passes before you hear the guitar, and it arrives with such muted self-assurance (1:04) that it immediately seems as if it had already been here and you just weren’t paying attention. Through most of the rest of the song, the metallic, low-register splendor of Andrew Hanna’s guitar provides both motion and density to a song with a gratifying number of moving parts. By the time the recurring guitar line coalesces into a bit of a solo (2:50), you will have thoroughly forgotten that this song was ever anything but a guitar rave-up. But go back and listen to the beginning; surprise!
“Bad Tattoos” is a track from the annual and always engaging PDX Pop Now! Compilation, the 2015 version of which was released in early June, in advance of the PDX Pop Now! music festival, scheduled for later this month in Portland. More information about the 42-track album is available here. “Bad Tattoos” is also slated to appear on Thanks’ next release, No Mercy in the Mountain, their second full-length, and an album they are at this moment raising money for on Kickstarter.