Superdrag bolted from the lumbering shadows of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium in 1993 in a beat-to-shit tour van with some ballsy aspirations: they wanted to be the next Beatles. They already possessed the sugar sweet hooks and hummable melodies, and they even had the boots and suits and mop-top do’s to complete the package.
But nine years and three albums of pop-rock pyrotechnics later, they’ve figured out it’s a lot easier just throwing on a pair of ratty blue jeans, plugging in the guitar and just being Superdrag . . . one of the best goddamned rock bands on the planet.
That’s Rock, folks. With a capital “R.” An endangered species on an FM dial infected with silicone sirens and NAMBLA pinups.
Like the lovable louts in the Replacements or the countrified punks in Uncle Tupelo, Superdrag (singer/guitarist John Davis, drummer Don Coffey, bassist Sam Powers and newcomer Mike Harrison) seems destined for the hallowed musical boneyard of bands whose genre defining pinache and influence far outweigh their record-sells and TRL appearances. They’ve been in the mountaintop of major-label glad-handing thanks to their debut, Regretfully Yours, been slapped on the ass by the folks at MTV and rubbed frets on tour with the likes of Green Day and Weezer.
But they’ve also seen the darkside of the business, witnessed by their messy divorce from Elektra, which parted with the band after their overlooked and underhyped sonic tour de force, Headtrip In Every Key.
Now, three years after the unpleasantness, Superdrag are back doing what they do best – cutting through the bullshit with a wall of fuzz guitar, a pummeling 4/4 beat and a freakish pop sensibility.
All three factors collide in spectacular fashion on Superdrag’s latest album, Last Call for Vitriol. Their second full-length release for the Arena Rock Recording Company, Vitriol finds Knoxville’s finest mining the bipolar eccentricity of Revolver-era Beatles, packing the punk fury of The Stooges on one track, the barroom bluster of Big Star on the next, and the forlorn twang of prime Waylon in between
As if that wasn’t enough, Guided by Voices mastermind Bob Pollard lends his pristine snarl to the lead track, “Baby Goes to Eleven.”
“It was really a thrill for us,” Davis says with a potent Tennessee twang. “Naturally we’re all big fans of Guided By Voices – have been for years. The fact that he thought enough of the song to want to sing on it really meant a lot to us.”
Lyrically, Vitriol is a study of love and life viewed through the bottom of a beer bottle. Davis-penned songs like “The Staggering Genius,” “So Insincere,” and “Feeling Like I Do” find our hero cross-eyed, painless and looking for a good woman to drag him away from the bar. Oddly enough, these songs convinced the now-sober frontman to clean up his own act.
“You can hear the frustration coming through on those songs,” says the recently married Davis. “I knew it was time for a change. I guess I knew that for quite a while, but I refused to admit it, even to myself.”