Vol. I, II
No Quarter Records
Endless Boogie are probably the most appropriately-named band around these days. A blues boogie band fond of guitar pyrotechnics and a driving beat, they emerged in 1997 out of the offices of Matador records in Brooklyn. The name comes from a 1971 John Lee Hooker album. They had no plans to actually be a band, other than to just jam and mess around. But then they got a gig in 2001 opening for Stephen Malkmus on one of his first post-Pavement tours. And from there, they slowly coalesced into a rock’n’roll band.
Vol. I, II is a re-release of their long out-of-print début recordings, originally released back in 2005. My buddy Sébastien was pretty stoked about this record, put it on at work on his headphones and lasted all of about three minutes due to the shitty sound. I lasted longer. It certainly does start off swampy and almost unlistenable, but that problems starts to resolve itself about halfway through the first track, ‘Outside of My Mind,’ a relatively short track for this release at only 8 minutes and 52 seconds.
It was Sébastien who got me into this band back in about 2013, when their album Long Island came out. I was hooked from the first note, and it hit heavy rotation around here, it was especially great music for the long drive back home to Montréal when we were living in Boston. I have fond memories of driving through snow storms and white outs in New Hampshire on Interstate 89 with Long Island blasting. Their next album, 2017’s Vibe Killer, was a masterpiece. Since then, I went back to their earlier albums, Focus Level (2008) and Full House Head (2010). What I discovered was that those earlier albums were pretty raw compared to Long Island and Vibe Killer, which is the album that really sees songwriting take precedence over the boogie and jamming.
So, once the muddy sound of Vol. I, II ironed itself out, I was surprised to discover that in 2005, Endless Boogie sounded more complete than they did three years later. They were raw and kind of wild, to be fair, but their sound is more complete than it was on the next two albums.
As I blast Vol. I, a three song set comprised of ‘Outside My Mind,’ ‘Dirty Angel,’ and ‘Stanton Karma’, over and over, I’m struck by the dirty guitars, and driving rhythm, though, it is true, the drums sound raw, especially on ‘Dirty Angel.’ Does this matter? Of course not. Frontman Paul ‘Top Dollar’ Major does sound far more unhinged and deranged than he does on more recent releases, that’s true. But it also seems that he’s just screaming over the guitars, sounding like a mixture of Lux Interior and Mark E. Smith. In most instances, he loses out to the guitars.
Vol. II is another three-song set, ‘Come Wide, Game Finish,’ ‘Style of Jamboree,’ and ‘Morning Line Dirt.’ ‘Come Wide’ begins with a basic riff and then off to the races we go. As with Vol. I, the drums sound raw here, and Major’s vocals sound again like he’s screaming to be heard over the riff. Once again, his voice loses. ‘Style of Jamboree’, the shortest track of the set, is only 3:49, and is the dirtiest blues riff of them all.
Part of what makes Endless Boogie so great is they keep it simple. The bass and drums propel the beat, always driving forward. You can almost walk on the beat of their music. The rhythm guitar keeps a simple riff going, repeated throughout the song, whilst the lead soars over and around the rhythm guitar. Sometimes Major sings, sometimes the tracks are instrumental. It doesn’t matter.
Ultimately, Vol. I, II gives us a powerful and masterful band in their infancy.