“Rock and roll doesn’t come from your head, it comes from your crotch.” Thus spake James Franco’s Daniel Desario on an episode of Freaks and Geeks trying to escape a strict band practice. And while that character might have been off base in context, he’s kind of got a point. The best rock and roll indulges in its most primal instincts. It is an animalistic mating ritual set to driving drums and overdriven amplifiers.
The duo that makes up Sisters (Spotlights’ Mario Quintero and Molly McGuire’s Jason Blackmore) built their careers on heavy riffs and layers of sonic experimentation that are maybe too cerebral to be sexy. But on Leecheater, they tap into their feral instincts.
The connection between the two musicians makes sense: Molly McGuire were among the first pioneers of the Kansas City alt rock scene that would go on to influence bands like Shiner, Giants Chair, and even Hum and Deftones. Spotlights formed two decades later, their brand of doomy shoegaze heavily influenced by the flock of bands that followed Molly McGuire. Shiner’s Allen Epley has even collaborated on a track with them. The project was born fifteen years ago when Blackmore invited Quintero to collaborate on some demos, and was shelved until the pandemic.
The tones of this record are easily predicted by fans of their main projects—there are crushing riffs galore, underpinned with an atmospheric sheen. But where their main projects would stretch these ideas out across several minutes of rising and falling, these songs have a much quicker pace, many of them wrapping up around three minutes (or less)—particularly in the first half of the record. Opening pair “Born Again” and “Dead to the World” could easily fit between Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age songs on modern rock radio. There are shades of Drive Like Jehu, Nirvana, and the more driving Sonic Youth tracks.
However, their more brooding tendencies don’t stay away forever. The back half gives itself over to more ominous paces and more patient arrangements. “The Wick Effect” switches between single-chord crescendoes, Slint-esque spoken word passages, and blistering screamed sections. “Windows” is as deliberate and plodding as a Neurosis track. The title track is nearly nine minutes long, with its crushing, chromatic space rock riff holding back until three minutes in.
Despite the differences in tempos and track lengths, there’s no disharmony between the two halves of the record. In fact, the slow down in the back half is a welcome chance to catch your breath—until the heaviness of the guitars crushes your chest in. Fans of Spotlights and Molly McGuire will obviously find plenty to love here, but it’s recommended for anyone who enjoys noisy rock music that isn’t afraid to color outside the lines.
Leecheater is out now through Spartan Records.