NEW RELEASE: "Combustor" on CD and Color Vinyl
MILWAUKEE, WI – “Call it rock or punk or rock ‘n’ roll or whatever, there’s still supposed to be some danger,” Combustor chief Clancy Carroll recently mused to OnMilwaukee.com. “And blood and sweat and maybe some tears. Tears of joy, that is!”
He would know. Between them, Combustor’s three members – Carroll on guitar, lead vocals, and songwriting, plus drummer/percussionist Marc Graves and bassist/vocalist Bobby Mitchell – share 120 years’ cumulative punk rock experience.
Their self-titled debut album, dropped on CD May 19 of this year (with vinyl following Sept. 1st) by Carroll’s label Splunge Communications, Inc., is a neat compression of every musical style within their expertise. Hissing, crushing tracks such as “Accelerate” and “Bent” would not have sounded out of place on ‘90s alternarock stations, programmed between Jane’s Addiction and Ministry. Then Combustor can flex other sets of muscles and uncork some unadulterated punk rock, including the humorous “Katie Dropped An F-Bomb” (featuring a sampled Dee Dee Ramone count-in), “Rails,” and “Punk Rock Sunday School Teacher.”
All of Combustor’s individual parts have resumes that essentially begin in the Milwaukee punk scene’s early days. Mitchell’s tight bottom end management drove the second lineup of The Haskels, the Fender-amp-on 10-punk-band considered the scene’s flagship outfit. He’s the bassist on the recently reissued Taking The City By Storm EP. (He also attended Cleveland’s all-male Benedictine Catholic High School with future Dead Boys drummer Johnny “Blitz” Madansky.)
Graves was a Haskels roadie and an occasional substitute drummer, depping for a few shows when Vodie Reinhardt nursed a broken arm. He and Mitchell were reunited in jam band Royal Flush’s engine room.
Which leaves head honcho Carroll. He helmed West Side “punk ‘n’ roll” band The Ones, responsible for a now-collectible single called “Tightrope.” The A-side is given a muscular remake on Combustor. He played with Mitchell in The Dominoes and the Clancy Carroll Band. He also has become Milwaukee punk’s recording angel, via his archival work on Splunge, including the acclaimed History In 3 Chords retrospective and a pair of Haskels reissues.
“It’s taken some time for the three of us to get together in the way that we have,” Carroll shrugged to OnMilwaukee, “but it feels like things have gone full circle.”
Carroll and Mitchell mutually expressed a desire to make music together again for years, but raising families and paying bills held prominence. “These days, adulting sucks,” Carroll recently quipped to Shepherd Express. “I’m at a point where I remember that music was the main thing I wanted to do.”
Hence the three veterans of the Starship (Milwaukee’s CBGB/Roxy/Masque equivalent) commenced jamming acoustically in Graves’ living room, as 2019 ground to a halt and gave way to 2020. Hearing the potential, the trio decided to get serious about it. Rehearsal space was rented at Southside Milwaukee facility The Factory.
And wouldn’t you know it? The week they moved in their gear and began setting up their room to develop the new band, the entire world ground to a halt. COVID-19 went from a rumor to full-blown pandemic in about 60 seconds, and we all went into lockdown. Including Combustor, who hadn’t been named yet.
Two years later, entrenched at Kneeverland Studios, Carroll and Graves were all set to begin tracking the glorious results of their misspent quarantine, but Mitchell expressed continuing COVID-borne reluctance to enter the enclosed environs of a recording studio. Johnny Washday, of Crusties and Sacred Order fame, pinch hit on several tracks for the bassist, until Mitchell felt comfortable rejoining the fray.
“I’m a very accommodating player,” Mitchell said of his musical philosophy. “I try to figure out what would help a song. I think Clancy’s songs show curiosity and empathy for what’s actually happening in our world.”
“I’m definitely more focused on craft,” Carroll mused to Shepherd Expressabout how his songwriting has progressed since The Ones. “I’m focused more on melody and finding twists and hooks.” He added that lyrically, a strong sense of apocalypse has entered his songs, noting that “’Accelerate’ is about falling off the edge of a cliff.”
“The last half decade has been difficult for many people, emotionally,” Carroll concludes.”But I’m trying to convey some positives.” And what could be more positive than covering Fats Domino as a coda? Closing track “Wheel” is a bastardized rendition of the New Orleans R&B legend’s 1958 hit “I’m Gonna Be A Wheel Someday,” given a new V8 power plant and a Holley four-barrel carb, and set loose on a punk rock dragstrip. Fun was never this fuel-injected….
Three sixty-somethings playing punk/punk-influenced rock in the wake of a global meltdown and pandemic-bred paranoia? That’s a pretty upbeat reaction, very Milwaukee-is-drowning-and-I-live-by-the-river. Combustor has crafted a perfect response to a world in flames, one that's hummable, even danceable. Johnny Rotten once quipped to Rolling Stone that the Sex Pistols were “a great dance band that’s out to destroy the world.” Combustor is one seeking to rebuild it. Which is the more noble ambition?
For more information, contact Splunge Communications at email@example.com