Certain indications of an album can tell you how good it’s going to be before you even get a chance to listen to it. Nothing’s a sure thing, but I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that before listening to Throw Rag’s 13 Ft & Rising, the advertised appearances of Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmeister, the Dead Kennedys' Jello Biafra, and finally Keith Morris of Black Flag and Circle Jerks fame, are an indication of good things to come.
A melting pot of punk, metal, rock, and folk, Throw Rag create a volatile environment as creepy as it is engaging. Paying heavy attention to atmosphere, the band shreds, sings, and drones through 14 songs of varying styles and backgrounds. It just feels dirty, dingy, and raw, as rock was always meant to be played. “Swingset Superman” opens things off with a rousing punk tune, with some speedy guitar lines and vocal delivery to match, and a great sing-along chorus sandwiched in between. That’s just one dimension of the band's talent and personality, but I happen to think it’s their best. The guitar work absolutely shreds, giving a slight metal tinge to the gritty punk style. “Radio Romantica” also continues the idea of adding speedy metal riffage to what’s a predominantly punk song. “Sad Girl” turns the energy way down, but the intensity stays right where it is.
That’s what’s most impressive about the album, the diversity at which the songs come from, but the undaunted flow that they’re able to maintain. High on mountains, or deep in canyons, country twang or punk spirit, versatility is the name of the game.
Sure, some of the songs are going to stand out over the others if for nothing else than because of the sense of danger exhibited. Lemmy’s appearance on “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down” isn’t quite as I had hoped, but his trademark voice is still present for the chorus, and he feels right at home among his surroundings. It feels like more could have been done with him, but that feeling is far better reserved for the appearance of Biafra and Morris. “Children Of The Secret State” is an interesting way to send the album out, as it’s less a song than Biafra speaking a piece that reads like a public service announcement, until a 5-second frenzied piece of music comes in with Keith Morris screaming at the helm.
An interesting and very promising effort from Throw Rag. The mixture of styles and tempos does well for the outfit, its only flaw being the seemingly missed opportunities from the guest appearances made. Despite that, there’s a lot to like, and a lot under the surface, enough so almost anyone can find something to gravitate towards.