With time, Josh Scogin will be able to release music without it immediately being compared to his work in The Chariot. That time isn’t upon us yet, as fans of the Georgia legends still hanker for them, tearfully screaming “long live” at anyone and everyone within earshot. The second release from Scogin’s stripped down ’68 project should help these lost souls in finding new comforts, away from the mayhem and maelstrom that The Chariot offered. Two Parts Viper is one part Southern Americana, one part ex-The Chariot Josh Scogin and one part wonderfully over the top rock and roll. But 2014’s Humor And Sadness was made up of much and such the same measurements. Has the sound evolved enough for ’68 to finally become a stand alone entity?
Kinda. To be blunt and cryptic. The turbo charged blues riffs that In Humor And Sadness was built on are over abundant again, and while they do reek of Southern hospitality, they still sound like slowed down Every Time I Die licks. Two Parts Viper is peppered with these types of riffs, and big, boisterous moments like the bass heavy “This Life Is Old, New, Borrowed And Blue” definitely sound like Scogin is having fun with them. The arrangements of the record’s best tracks are even interrupted by the same Clutch inspired guitar and drum breaks, switching the momentum from open, heartbreaking admission into stage presence guitar swinging.
This is detrimental to the record without ever ruining anything. For instance, the opening salvo of “Eventually We All Win” and “Whether Terrified Or Unafraid” would certainly lift the lift odd any venue that Scogin enters, with a typically turbo-Southern aplomb. This opens Two Parts Viper with expectations of the same ’68 as before; something that is detrimental to the feel of the record, as the best bits to come are far removed from the big swinging dicks of riffs like these.
Scogin enters territory on this record that he just about scratched in the latter days of The Chariot. Some of his Americana vibes, wholly drenched in church hall reverb, sound like offerings more likely to be handed out by Thrice in their later days. Still open, honest and incredibly insightful into the goings on of Scogin’s mind, but played with a smirk and a shrewd, drawn back anger. “The Workers Are Few” wouldn’t be out of place on The Alchemy Index or White Pony to be honest. Immediately following this, an even better track; don’t get me wrong, “The Workers Are Few” is a great track, it just screams of those influences. “Life Has It’s Design” is a marring of Melvins and Trent Reznor, fighting scraps in a dusty, Lynchian post apocalyptic land.
Again, easy references to pull out of a track that definitely belongs on Two Parts Viper, unlike a handful of them, which could certainly have belonged on In Humor and Sadness. It’s when Scogin really lets rip with his vocals or with an idea that ’68 feels like something more than a dumb rock duo like Royal Blood or something else just as vapid. “Without Any Words,” even as the most obvious offender of lazy fuzzy riff sequencing, takes on a form bigger than anything from the debut, simply because Scogin wails and lets his voice break. The guy is an incredibly talented performer with a million ideas, it’s just how he gets them down and whether he can pull the useful ones together cohesively enough.
This isn’t The Chariot, thankfully. If Scogin had tried to simply take his favourite bits of that band and turn them out in this format then ’68 would suck. A noisy, interesting debut has been followed by this: a dusty, see-saw bopping between seedy church choir and dimly lit dive bar. Two Parts Viper is an extension of In Humor And Sadness but doesn’t fall back too hard onto it. More of the tracks have their own real identity in among Scogin’s body of work this time around, with the second half of the album probably the best example of alternative rock around. Missteps aside, this is a gorgeous dance of all the influences a young Southern punk could have melded into one record. Now taking bets on how many Sundance movies try to option the album closer for use over their trailer/finalé. Give it the Oscar already if they manage.
Two Parts Viper is available now via Cooking Vinyl and can be purchased here.