The Case for “Pino”
By Matthew Coman
Matthew Coman is a pretty fine singer/songwriter from St. Joseph, Missouri, he occasionally gets tricked into writing something for Vocals On Top and we are always happy to host his thoughts here. After reading this article about the forgotten debut by Scruffy & The Janitors (even though it has been just over a year since it was released) you should check out his bandcamp page and pay him like .03 cents for his great 2013 album No Other Animal or preorder his upcoming record Crooked Moon. You can do all that right here: http://matthewcoman.bandcamp.com/
Right now I’m listening to a great debut album from one of St. Joseph’s best garage rock bands. The artists in question are none other than Scruffy & The Janitors. The album, titled “Pino”, is flooded with bombastic fuzzy guitars, poppy bass lines, and and overall hi-fi sound quality. I am told the bands debut album was recorded using Sonic Acid Pro, an eighty dollar recording program available on your local interwebs for any aspiring musician who doesn’t have the green to spend on a decent recording studio.
The reason I feel the need to revisit this 2012 release is that I feel it received somewhat harsh criticism by local reviewers, journalists, fans, speculators, ect. It had been a while since I put the album in since I first picked it up at the Lucky Tiger around the time of its release date. I remember hearing “Use Me Up” for the first time in my car, popping it in as soon as my chewed off nails tried frantically to get the shrink wrap off. Accompanied by clean guitar, soft rhythmic drums, and a great harmonica part the song is any blues lovers wet dream, but that track is alone is not the only one that shines brightly on this hi-fi, low budget debut release.
Case in point: “Post-Meridian”, the first track off of their debut album. It’s catchy, its rocks, and despite the critique that it doesnt sound like it came straight out of pro tools or a well designed recording studio it still has Steven Foster, the lead singer, attacking every song with his very unique vocals. The vocals are still clear, the bass is there, Teriq Newton’s fuzzy and bombastic guitar sound, and Trevin Newton’s drumming are all perfectly audible for me to thoroughly enjoy this album. How about “Know it All”? The same could be said for every song on this album.
If “Pino” is a testament to anything, it is to the determination of these guys to make really good music despite the only vessel they had at the time of the recording. In this writers humble opinion, it is the perfect debut garage rock album for a garage rock band. Maybe some of you are familiar with a band called Night Beats. Night Beats’ album “Sonic Bloom” is also another great example of how things don’t have to be crystal clear to make a great record. Night Beats’ album is filled with reverberated vocals, the words barely audible, the music bombastic and lovely, they sound like a garage rock psychedelic group from the sixities, yet they’ve just arrived.
There’s not a song on “Pino” I don’t enjoy. I love the fuzz and the general feel. When I listen to it I hear three guys, maybe in a basement somewhere, hammering out these songs with intensity. They were serious when they made this album. If you can go back and listen to The Litter, a psychedelic garage rock band formed in the sixties, you won’t necessarily hear the same quality of recording like Pino, but you will hear something that you like despite how dated it is. The same is true of so many old records. These were bands using the tools available to them at the time to pour their hearts into the music that they love, and for Scruffy & The Janitors, “Pino” is the very same. So don’t let the fact that these aren’t perfectly mixed and mastered tracks, with crystal clear vocals, and a good balance of low and high end get in the way of how good this album is. I’ll say it again; “Pino” was the perfect debut record for a band like Scruffy. Take it out of it’s case, and listen to it again. That’s what I had to do.
Key Tracks: All of Them