Me and one of my mates have this recurring argument. We’ll go and see this or that band – ones, often, that one we both enjoy – and he’ll say: “oh these are going nowhere, they’ll never get to the next level.”
He was at it again the other night. “[band name deleted as they’ve been on the site about a million times] might as well give up,” he said. “They’re still playing the same venues they’ve been playing for the last five years.”
As it often does, a row ensued, where I asked him to name one band, with the honourable exception of Royal Blood, that had moved into arenas in that time.
He followed this up with: “yeah well I am sure Thin Lizzy thought that. No, if I was in a band,” he said with some certainty, “I’d be aiming to play Wembley…..”
I can kind of see his point, to be fair, you have ambitions, you dream big maybe. But there are those that make music that isn’t ever going to be classed as “Easy Listening”.
That’s not to say its any more worthy than some million seller with gold records in his toilet, but it is to suggest there are those that make the music they want to make and to hell with what anyone else thinks.
I’ve never met either of Ed Abbiati or Stiv Cantrelli, but I know their music, and I am willing to bet they fall into this category with absolute pride.
Ed was in Italian Americana kings Lowlands for donkeys years, while Stiv essentially made punk blues his own in the last few years. So, when Lowlands called it a day, Ed rang Stiv and the result is The A.C.C. The Abbiati Cantrelli Conspiracy and “Beautiful, At Night” sounds like it never wants to come out of the darkest of alleys, or remove itself from the shadowy world it inhabits.
“Dog Beat The Devil” rather sets the bar. Screeching punk in places, but with enough country to keep its roots in Americana. The discordant, chaotic harmonies are perfect too. The lyrics never find any light at the end of the tunnel either. “I had a friend, he was only 19,” laments Abbiati, “never woke up. It was amphetamines…..”
“Beautiful, At Night” – the song but also the album – has a kind of lugubrious tone. Like it has been beaten just one too many times to care anymore.
The band is augmented by Chris Cacavas and the one time Green On Red man delivers some brilliant organ work throughout to add a real depth here. “Never Gave Up” – perhaps the pick of this brilliant bunch – has some mighty lead guitar from Cantrelli and there is just a hint or two of the cracked, wine-soaked troubadour type rock n roll that Dogs D’amour managed – particularly in the lyrical imagery here.
Mike “Slo Mo” Brenner – and no mention of him is complete on this site without being in awe of the first couple of discs by Marah that he was on. “Kids In Philly” man…. just go buy the thing! – adds his slide to a couple, including the brutal delta blues tinged “Saturday Night”, while there is just a hint or two of British crazies Urban Voodoo Machine – about “Another Muddy Night”. Tinged with regret (“it could have been so much better” goes its hook – and they all have hooks) it is perfect for when the darkness envelops you and your thoughts.
“I Want You To Like Me” is what it would have sounded like, perhaps, if The Sonics had given themselves to blues, as it is, this travels (with little or no love, probably) down a dark, expansive road to “Crab Tree” which is anthem for all those who are numbed by their jobs and don’t find their true calling.
The co-conspirators on this endeavour shouldn’t go under the radar either. Joe Barreca’s bass and Antonio Perugini (who worked with Cantrelli in The Silent Strangers) are right to the fore on one of the more straight-ahead moments “One Life Ain’t Enough” while “Life’s Calling” broods, occasionally lifting its head up long enough to deliver a killer blow.
There are nine original songs here, but the one cover sums up the way The ACC think. “Old Satan Revisited” is an adaption of an unreleased Townes Van Zandt demo, which tells the tale of remorseless debauchery and has a screeching, bleak soundscape. “I used to get lonesome, I can’t remember why, I used to love, now I just don’t try” is nihilistic poetry at its best.
“This, my friends, is rock n roll” proclaims a line on the info that came with “Beautiful, At Night”. And it is, but it’s a mutated form. There is something beautiful in the ugliness, though.