Asthmatic Kitty Records

Trumans Water

O Zeta Zunis

Catalog: AKR073
Release date: August 24, 2010

Ah, America — she loves a comeback, she does. Even the hint of its possibility tantalizes. Plays so well in Peoria (and elsewhere). Is it part of the USA’s national character to welcome back its own to any notable prominence, to celebrate a reclamation earned through reassertion, revivifying accomplishment — or retrospective reassessment?

Summer of ‘76: Washington and the Continental Army, asses kicked, barely escape from NYC after near-obliteration by Brits in the Battle of Brooklyn; come Christmas, George and ragtag Co. cross icy Delaware, rout surprised Hessian mercenary troops in Trenton. Huzzah. Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall … “Elvis — The ‘68 Comeback Special” … Philip K. Dick, RIP … Tiger Woods? Captain Beefheart?

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Trumans Water never really went away. Scarce in their native land, yes — that, indeed, the veteran American “spazz-rock”/”squiggle-core” group has been in recent years. (Increasingly more obscure as well, relatively unknown to untold pods of younger blog-rockin’ folk — sharp-eared discerners, who might well luv TW were they to know TW — if still deemed “legendary” by those who, a) remember Trumans’ halcyon days in America’s early/mid-‘90s “guitar-rock” underground; b) recall the life-altering praise from abroad, with the late great all-time tip-top good-taste-making radio DJ John Peel championing them over international airwaves, and the Melody Maker making this pithy 1993 assessment: “Sonic freaks with a lust for life, Trumans Water make Pavement sound like U2.”  Hear, hear? Not bad — but your call.)

For over a dozen years, the Water’s arguably been more of a foreign affair, with releases on European labels, touring almost exclusively “over there” yet consistently recording stateside. Doing it all even with key co-founding brothers living miles apart: lanky guitarist-vocalist Kirk Branstetter in Portland, Oregon, where the band relocated in 1995 (they formed in San Diego in 1991); and savvy vox/gtr/bass/etc. guy Kevin Branstetter, who married French and lives south of Paris w/ wife and offspring (and is known to offer pro road/liaison services for indie/outie music types touring l’Europe).

But enough with the history (for now). Because the rock o’ Trumans Water lives in the present. Their new albumO Zeta Zunis sounds remarkably fresh if also in keeping with a fistful of enduring collective aesthetic TW identities: the ever-active, wildly clawing, rough-toned brace of guitars; the sour-sweet sing-shout screech-croon ‘n’ power-yowl; the explosive rhythms, herking here and jerking there, none too predictable anywhere. And some fun sound-play. Thoughtfully goofin’ verbiage. All good. Quite.

O Zeta Zunis may be Trumans Water’s studio album-proper #13 — or not, if ya count such various full-length Trumans cassette releases as Couch of the Spastics on Chocolate Monk or Cough Forth Such Dilemmas on Union Pole. Whatev. It certainly is their first new album since 2003 and, so importantly, it is coming out in these United States (and elsewhere) on Asthmatic Kitty Records. (The label will offer quality downloads; the band will put out a limited number of vinyl copies on their Justice My Eye/Elevated Loin imprint.) AKR will be their first truly stable domestic label home of the new millennium. (What’s more, Asthmatic Kitty is planning to catch up any interested parties in coming months by digitally re-releasing elusive albums of the Trumans Water discography.)

As well, the 14 tracks spread over OZZ’s “Zeta” side and “Zunis” side mark a coming back of Trumans’ post-Galloway period, this time rounded out by versatile bassist/veteran cohort Mike Coumatos (also known as 50% of fine ongoing Portland party-rock duo the Bugs) and drumming dynamo John Schier (of the Last of the Juanitas, aMiniature, Uncle Joe’s Big Ol’ Driver, Eric Kivlen Band, Donald Wilson Quartet).

Brief back-story: the Water took shape in ‘91, when the Fender-bending brothers Branstetter hooked up with singer-guitarist-catalyst Glen Galloway; soon San Diego had a rollicking avant-rock angle to its music scene inTW, the kind of band that, say, could righteously open for/tour with the Boredoms (Trumans did). But after their self-made albums Of Thick Tum, Spasm Smash, the Godspeed tetralogy and numerous singles had sent their sounds worldwide, Glen exited to marry, concentrate on his Holy Spirit-stoked Soul-Junk group — and stay in SD as Trumans continued touring, eventually moving to Oregon. What amazed many was how quick a study then-bassist Kevin B. proved to be when Glen G. instructed him on lead vocal and co-guitar-ing duties. Empowered, the younger Branstetter picked up the torch, carrying it still. Later, Galloway returned as a guesting full member to augment Trumans’ last three albums — each a fine collection.

O Zeta Zunis is a cohesive foursome ripping confidently, a few slowed-up passages helping to accentuate the melodic riff-drive of “Last Time” or the balls-out whizz-bang of “Greased Water,” the twitchy-catchy frolic of “5-7-10 Split” or the rubbery buzz-chug of “You Live Out Loud.” Nice. There’re loping jams and snappy sputter-blasts as well. Essence of Trumans. And, as detailed, O Zeta Zunis brings the Water back to the United States — in some literal ways that’ve not been seen in over a dozen years. (Along with playing Europe, TW plan to do some actual North American touring to support this/other Asthmatic Kitty product.) Yeah, Trumans Water — those friendly fellows are of the world but they’re America’s and they never left so won’t you please welcome them back?