From time to time, I’ll use this column to revisit some of the best (and worst) local releases of the last two decades. Having moved to Jacksonville in the early part of 1995, and having joined Folio Weekly shortly thereafter, I amassed quite an archive of tapes and CDs from area bands. Some very talented people have made some amazing music here. Some of them gave it up a long time ago, while others remained active in the music community despite their advancing age and need for real income.
Looking back on releases from our collective past, I hope to tweak the memories of old scenesters while turning the younger generation on to what was happening back in the day. Most of this stuff is fairly hard to find nowadays but, when possible, I’ll provide information on how to obtain copies. (If you have archival local music and would like to remember it in print, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
This week’s Knife is dedicated to that magnificent band Gizzard and their legendary album Kill and Reissue. Well, legendary in my mind, anyway. Gizzard was that rare combination of solid musicianship, raw talent and fearless experimentation, all of which was made manifest on their 1999 release.
Kill and Reissue opens with the intense jam “Nowhere’s,” a loose, heavy blast of choppy funk accented with guitarist Chris Strawn’s inimitable vocals. Slightly off pitch, incredibly soulful and just a little angry, Strawn’s singing style was all his own. He was powerful and punkish, but there was something lovely and sincere there, too. No one sings like him, and no one should ever try.
Gizzard’s penchant for badass riffage cannot be overstated, and the blistering opening riffs in “Nowhere’s” continue to pop up again and again throughout Kill and Reissue. Vince Coursey, a total mother-effer on drums, puts it down with authority and grace in songs like “Year of the Cock,” “Transmission Fluid” and “Dress Socks.” Bassist Taylor Griffin fills out the groove with a meaty doubling of Strawn’s riffs. Think Atomic Bitchwax with more finesse and better vocals and you’re getting close to Gizzard’s rocky edge.
There’s a ton of experimentation on Kill and Reissue, too. Trippy, synthy mindbenders like “Neptune Supersprite” and “The Digital Horseman” offer ambient breathers between the power funk that dominates the album. All of this is threaded together with the late Brian Hicks’ muscular sax and delicate flute lines.
Strawn remembers: “Gizzard began shortly after some friends told me about Brian Hicks, a guy from the Nease High School band who liked punk rock and hardcore and played saxophone and flute. We met over the phone and began to talk for hours about rock, punk, hardcore, friends and life. We soon started hanging out and seeing what could happen. The first time I met him, he was wearing Ocean Pacific corduroy shorts, navy blue dress socks and jogging shoes. We started collaborating on songs.”
Hicks was always a visible part of Jacksonville’s music community. So many people were touched by his music, and many of us had the privilege of playing with him. We lost him too early — in 2010 to stomach cancer. I was a notary at the time, and I was asked by his family to sign his death certificate. Listening to Kill and Reissue is a bittersweet experience, but a testament to Hicks’ ability to rock your face off one minute and down-tempo your ass the next.
Gizzard was one of my favorite local bands, and Kill and Reissue my favorite of their three records (the other two are We Did Some Things in 1998 and 2000’s Denise!). Strawn went on to form Brass Castle, another terrific little project. But for me, Gizzard was the shit, exactly what we all needed in a unique time in Jacksonville’s local music history. Hell, we could use a little Gizzard right now.