February 03, 2004

Drums & Tuba "Gas Up, Fill Up"

Drums & Tuba, who came from Texas and Chicago and are now based out of New York, have perhaps the most honest name in music history. Their lineup is, yep, you got it, a drum and a tuba. There's also a guitar player, but he came after the band was named. They've gone from interesting little novelty band to a respected and long-touring jam band, due in no small part to working with Ani DiFranco. Their last two albums have been increasingly polished in style, honing in on a space-jazz rock element that wasn't present in their earlier records, and this change is due in large part to the fact that in the past few years, they've toured non-stop.

Gas Up, Blow Up is a nice little odds & sods collection. Almost all of the songs are outtakes from their last album, 2002's Mostly Ape, which was a warm, friendly collection of stoned-out jazz funk, much in line with their previous album Vinyl Killers. Interestingly enough, these songs are harder than the album, and it's the guitar that dominates many of these tracks, and it's a rather diverse guitar style, too. One minute, it's a funk-rock guitar ("Cairo"). Then it's a hard-rock guitar ("Zepplin, Rock the Mess.") Then it's a "not exactly what you think of when you think of Drums & Tuba" guitar ("JR"). Still, these songs are excellent, even though they stand in contrast to what they were doing at the time.

Though most of these songs were from the last album, there are also a number of songs that come from their storied past. "The Great White Whale," a brooding number that opens up Gas Up, Blow Up, is a good example of how they sound live--in other words, AWESOME. (They are a GREAT live band. I have a tape of them from 2001, where they played in front of seven or eight people, and they played a tight two hour show, and much of it was improvised.) "The Short Giraffe" is an outtake from Vinyl Killers, and it's slower and darker from their budding space-jazz funk style. "Kuc to Luc" is an oradio session from their early days, which is interesting, considering how much they've grown in style. The final song on the record, "Hi Hello, It's Tony," is a sound manipulation that was created by their tour manager, Goat, and it's utterly hilarious.

Gas Up, Blow Up might not be a proper full-length album, but it's still a fun listen. It will most assuredly fill you up with your Drums & Tuba cravings until their next record. If you're not a fan, it's also a great place to start, as it captures them doing what they do best--making great music.

--Joseph Kyle

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