As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as San Francisco Water Cooler.
In garages and basements sprawled across suburbia, children armed with a few chords, a bit of skronk, and the desire to be something different in a time warped community strap themselves with armaments of the proletariat. Expressing emotions so complicated, not even the healthiest of adults can process them; these children tear down their fourth walls to expose a truth only they know. But what happens when they grow up?
While many of these youthful warriors grow up and out of their ‘phase’, there are the few that find more than escape in the musings of their childhood. Such is the case with San Francisco Water Cooler; a trio that has never given up the idea that rock and roll is an instrument of immediacy. Tapping into traditional influences (VU, John Fahey, The Rolling Stones, 70s DIY punk, 60s psychedelia), SFWC somehow emerge as a unique act among the wealth of noisemakers polluting internet musical exploration throughout the lifespan of II. It’s not how these influences are mined but rather how three man-childs have retained the innocence of the free spirit and put it on record. II is a triumph of the soul, not of proficiency.
SFWC are adept musicians but the decaying swirl of acid-tinged riffs and plucks amidst a feedback storm is nothing new. The exuberance with which each song is built proves to be the album’s strong suit. Freakouts such as “Exiles” maintain the garage atmosphere without devolving into hedonistic nightmares. Centered on low budget production (the sort that made Times New Viking a hot commodity for a brief moment in time) and enthusiastic bellows of horn, “Exiles” is the sort of drunken bar brawl that made Crazy Horse a combustible force and must-listen during their heyday. And with a flick of a switch, the boys settle into back porch foot stomps (“April in the Orange”) and meditative ragas (“Reflection Refrain”) without losing their street swagger. II is messy but charming. It’s unkempt hair, torn jeans, baggy clothing and blown out bong with a heart of gold — always there with a helping hand or an ass kicking — whichever fits the situation. Here’s to hoping SFWC never grow up.