In Devil Sent the Rain, Tom Piazza's insightful book about music, America and the backwash of failing levees, the author calls the blues a big river that runs through the middle of our culture. "Every notable form of American music... is a city, or a village, along that river," Piazza writes.
So what does a definition of the blues have to do with Rock Hill's Motel Glory and its latest disc, Weekend Treasures, Monday's Trash? Quite a lot, it turns out. As the LP title suggests, Motel Glory has its feet planted firmly in the land of loserdom, where the Replacement's "Bastards of Young" are still bitching that they missed the last bus. Yet, the floodwaters of the blues are lapping at singer/songwriter Greg Ellis' heels.
Blues structures and blues "feel" are all over Motel Glory's sturdy and melodic country punk, and the songs' grimy yet spacious arrangements of Ellis' smart-assed tales of lost opportunities and jilted Joes are pure blues.
Sharp tongue and broken heart jostle for attention on Weekend Treasures' twelve tunes. The swagger of the Blasters and the snarkiness of the Descendents are obvious touchstones. Yet, the urban jitters of Sonny Boy Williamson and the primal honky-tonk of Dock Boggs also seep into these cuts. Weekend Treasures' tangle of contradictions makes for invigorating rock. Despite its distorted country twang, lead-off track "Muscle Memory" is pure power pop.
The roadhouse swing of "You Used to be Cool When You Had a Car" supports a rollicking celebration of fucking up big time. "South Broad River" slows the punk fury down with a lilting melody that raises Ellis' working stiff tale to heroic heights.
Throughout, Ellis' and Slade Baird's guitar work is full, spikey and swinging. The distorto-Spanish flamenco of "Here Lies a Fucker" suggests the chugging, slurry precision of Johnny Thunders, bringing a manic edge to the raucous, screamo sing-along.
With witty lyrics that balance acid with empathy, Weekend Treasures never loses sight of punk's prime emotions: defiance and hope. Ellis' through-a-shot-glass-darkly world view may seem slightly seedy, but you know he's rooting for those not-so-beautiful losers who refuse to lie down.