“Something’s gotta happen, something’s gotta change,” seems like a familiar refrain in the world of cagey guitar rock, the product of boredom, teenage ennui, or simply having nothing to do. There has been a ton of bands who have looked to shake things up with similar words expressing end of the world laments skewed in distortion and shouts and not much else, at least not much in the way of actual life-changing rhapsody.
It might be hyperbolic to credit Stark Folk Band as having what’s missing in “Modern Times” (Toxic Beauty Records), but for a few minutes it feels like Brady Lee Burkett and company have tapped into a stream from the ether with an in-the-moment tenacity. If you’ve followed along, you know that this hermit quartet from Yellow Springs, Ohio doesn’t tend to sear this white hot. Usually their’s is a fairly basic, yet surprisingly lackadaisical adherence to acoustics and their namesake, pining in simple drinking songs heavy on the twang. Slowly they’ve developed a youthful rage that suits their psychedelics well. On first listen, “Modern Times” could be any number of Nuggets groups—The Sonics, 13th Floor Elevators, The Count Five—but after repeated listens, there’s a uniquness to Stark Folk’s approach. It’s as if all of the country-aping hokum that has come before this single was a bait and switch. Though they sing that they “don’t want to have the symptoms of modern times,” here the band is adapting, scorching the earth around them to fit in the best they can. This is a song that could match up well with anything tagged with the lazy “garage” rock of the day, even if Stark Folk have no knowledge of such contemporaries.
The flipside, “Ode to a Legend,” is even more fun. The legend in reference, Mike “Rep” Hummel, is noted repeatedly in the song. Whether it’s fantasizing about a night in jail with the man or alluding to Rep’s first devastating single, “Rocket to Nowhere,” it’s a rollicking homage to one of Ohio’s, if not America’s, underground heroes. This may be a one-off for the band, but it’s intriguing enough to see where exactly the Stark Folk brothers head next.