Slim Cessna's Auto Club - Unentitled (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Slim Cessna's Auto Club

Unentitled (2011)

Alternative Tentacles

Slim Cessna 's Auto Club serves to remind us that not everything is fine and dandy out in the country. While folk-punk and country-punk have surged in popularity sonic 2005, it seems many of these newer groups might just be city boys in flannel, only touching upon the idyllic things of bucolic life by painting Norman Rockwell scenes: kissin' purty gals, goin' on trips, and the benefits of ol' fashioned hard work. But, take a trip with Slim Cessna out to the bread basket and you're bound to find that late at night, hellhounds still roam them plains! Lord!

From the opening pluck of Unentitled, SCAC forge multi-parted, complex pieces rooted in gothic Americana. While a great deal of country music and punk relies on simplicity for effect, SCAC buck the trend with their congregation of middle America instruments. Instead of a single feller picking his guitar on the hillside, a whole choir whirls and weaves together waves of organs, acoustic guitars and steel guitars that sometimes roll together and sometimes crash in each other's faces. In fact, with their twisting and deep clang, the legion of bent stings could easily fit in an animated Tim Burton movie.

But, instead of pure cacophony, the band seems to forge their girth of sound into a shifting column of such. Interestingly, "A Smashing Indictment of Character" sounds like an unreleased country take from The Dark Side of the Moon. In contrast, "No Doubt About It" bucks the dour mood of the rest album with an upbeat foot-stomper propelled by a steel drum in which the band interestingly make the island instrument sound like it was twined alongside the banjo.

While the music serves as proxy for those who would be sitting in the pews, dual frontmen Slim Cessna and Jay Munly take the altar as conduits for the sonic mass. Although the pair bounce calls off each other, alternating between dropping to the ground in despair and jumping in the air, electrified by some spirit, they leave much to the listener. Just as the album cover could either be interpreted as a Church engulfed in hellfire or as a beacon of light amidst Sodom, it's difficult to determine the pair's motivations.

Are they reaching out to the punk rockers with the hand of salvation, or are they coaxing the devout into the black pit, cloaked with the shrouds of His music? Could the two frontmen be at cross-purposes themselves, playing chicken with the other's eternal soul?

Unentitled has no profound epiphany and we got no explanatory Words from either eternal spirit. At best, Jay Munly offers a puzzle in the closing track where he takes the pulpit and cries, "Jesus have mercy on me / Jesus have mercy on my congregation!" While pleas to the Divine are usually for the purposes of requesting divine help, Munly's inflection suggests that he's not so much asking for the Lord's aid so much as he's asking for a reprieve of punishment.

After Munly's pleas fade away unanswered and the album comes to a stop, there isn't so much silence as there is an ever so faint howling...