“Big and crushing” is the way Archer vs. Gunman describes newly-released EP The Last Days of Winter. The album is underscored by urgency and immediacy which probably has something to do with “live with no click” recording process, but there’s also an insistent determination in vocalist/guitarist Shaun Williams’ lyrics that recalls that strident rawness of both Bruce Springsteen and Arcade Fire. His phrasing, at once thick and breathless, half-spoken and dancing around the beat, borrows a page from Bob Seger. (Despite the eye rolls a Seger reference is sure to attract, the “Night Moves” singer crafted many a hit, has been covered by Thin Lizzy and Metallica, and is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.)
But vocal quality aside, Winter in, inarguably, a rock album. From the forcible percussion of Andrew Parker — “Weird Dreams (I walk with You)” has an especially captivating drum intro — to the solid bassline of Rob Sweet, there’s no denying the rock teeth of this Asheville-by-way-of-Greenville trio. That, and in classic rock form, this is an entire album of songs about girls, from ” Art School Girl” and “Girl on the bass guitar” to lengthily- and titilatingly-titled “A Song For All the Girls Who Can’t Remember How They Got Home Last Night.”
On the latter, Williams (who is also the songwriter) sings, “You slumped over in the passenger seat when you rolled your window down / and the winter wind rushed inside and blew your hair around. / The strands of peroxide blonde and manic-panic pink / Got stuck to you lip gloss and plucked like harp strings when you’d blink.” It’s Americana-encapsulated and also sweetly poetic. And, though Williams’ exquisite words are sometimes lost to the fuzz and crash of the music, even that aspect of Archer vs. Gunman is charming. On first listen the tracks are straight-forward rock ‘n’ roll that only reveal poets’ souls on closer inspection.
Look (and listen) closer to this band. You won’t be disappointed.