The players: Duff McKagan – guitar/vocals, Mike Squires – lead guitar, Jeff Rouse – bass, Isaac Carpenter – drums.
The songs: Lords of Abbadon / Executioner’s Song / Dead Skin / We Win / Easier Lying / She’s An Anchor / Indian Summer / Wrecking Ball / King Of The World / Cocaine / Your Name / Follow Me To Hell
Duff and his gang have been building a sound full up with earthy ground and pound. Sure there’s an undeniable streak of the platinum level hookery and crookery that took Duff to the very top of the candy mountain. But more so, look for a trashing about with the likes of Johnny Thunders and Hanoi Rocks, rifled through with a cocked ear to what was best about churning hard-edged alt. and indie rock through the ’90s and noughts.
“What’s the motivation now?” is the multi-million dollar question one might ask the youngest of eight kids, an angry young punk who lived to see all his rock dreams come true. “Well, this is our third record, and man, I just think every band is in search of that perfect album or that perfect song – you’re still chasing it. It doesn’t matter. People will ask me, ‘ How come you’re still chasing the perfect song?’ And I think any musician, doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been doing it, is thinking I haven’t written THE song. Loaded are a good band, we like each other and we genuinely love creating and playing music and touring together. So those things combined… there is still a carrot out there and we’re pursuing it.”
And one can sense this enthusiasm in the heat-steeped grooves of The Taking. “Your Name” rocks and roils on craggy, dark chords, drummer Isaac Carpenter (new for this record, although he toured for Sick) laying down a bashing, infectious groove over which Duff (guitars/vocals), Mike Squires (guitars) and Jeff Rouse (bass) build textures inside of a melody that perches somewhere between Soundgarden and Voivod. “Indian Summer” conversely embraces passionate pop melody as the band strums over tribal drums during the verse, before kicking into a cloud-busting chorus potentially smashing on radio – this one recalls ardent obscurities such as Saigon Kick and I Love You, accessible rock but for the feverish and knowledgeable fan of song construction.
For restraint, pace and dimension, there’s the thorny post-punk of “Easier Lying,” “Wrecking Ball” and “King Of The World,” the latter sending up a churning metal squall that nonetheless evokes Dead Boys, Killing Joke, In Utero-era Nirvana and, through riotous gang vocals, incendiary UK hardcore.
The most intense song on The Taking might be “Follow Me to Hell,” which again… somehow the guys have tapped into a Voivodian vortex, topping this tale of rape revenge with vitriolic hardcore vocals, interlacing it with chord changes that build smart movement’s executable by only the deftest of songconstructors.
Duff admits he could never pull and peel off track after track of such dark hookery without the firepower of a band as encyclopedic and open-minded about rock as he himself has always been. Indeed, it’s inspiring to see Duff’s enthusiasm for his band.
“Isaac is the newest member, and he’s an incredibly diverse and imaginative drummer,” begins McKagan. He had an amazing band called Loudermilk, one of those bands that was a bit before their time. And Isaac can play every instrument. He’s a better guitar player than I am, he’s a better singer than I am, and he runs ProTools. So we did most of the demos together, plus he’s a great songwriter. Obviously he’s a very strong addition to the band (laughs). He’s very opinionated, which makes it very interesting because our guitar player Mike Squires is very opinionated too, and very kind of hardcore, and Mike Squires, if you’re a Loaded fan, you know Mike’s style of guitar playing. It’s very bizarre, outside of the norm. And on this record, I think he’s become one of those guitar guys that other guitar guys are going to want to try and emulate. He’s just never done anything straight down the middle. He cringes at the thought of doing something like somebody else is doing. And Jeff Rouse, man, Jeff is the only bass player that I know that is not afraid to be a bass player with me, the bass player from, you know, two big bands. He’s a better bass player than me, and he’s got his own groove, and the ladies love him. Good-looking fella (laughs). So he’s got that going for him.” Jeff and Mike are both very, very good songwriters. Mike’s stamp would be ‘Executioner’s Song’, but he also has the sensitivity to pen a diddy like ‘Easier Lying’ . Rouse wrote arguably the catchiest song, ‘She’s An Anchor’
What’s very cool about The Taking, besides its eclecticism, is that a unifying principle of stripping down, simplifying and courting pregnant pauses seems to have been applied to all the bubbling under smartness, an idea that helps Loaded (on, for example, ” We Win” or ” She’s An Anchor” ), continually achieve a catchiness reminiscent of penultimate Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots anthems. In other words, the listener can detect that the quietly talented Loaded cabal has kept in mind that these songs live and breathe most robustly if they kick ass in a sweaty club, if they touch people on record and then through the souvenir memory of a live show that imprints itself on the forehead of a fan converted.
“When we play live, I think that’s what sets us apart,” says Duff, belying the importance of that side of the equation. “We’re definitely a hard rock band, and the songwriting is honest. We’re not in it… it’s not just Duff trying to line his pockets – we’re a working rock band. And I don’t know why, but I think this record is harder and even darker than ‘Sick’ was. It might have something to do with the fact that we wrote some of the songs when we were on the road for the ‘Sick’ record. Our band, our bus… you sort of get into this gang mentality, hanging together, thinking the same, watching the same news, witnessing the same things…”
“Still, as with anything I’ve done, with Guns or with Velvet, you’re definitely seeing my mark,” reflects Duff, in closing. “My stamp is on Loaded as much as it is on either of those two bands. But we definitely have our own twist. Sometimes we’re like the heaviest metal band, and sometimes we’re the jangly, poppy, nerdy Seattle band. I’d say we’re kind of a mix of those two extremes. But sure, overall the album is darker and sicker and more twisted. It’s still got our humor – our sort of wink wink, for sure, all over it – but I mean, if you’re listening to our record, you’re in on the joke. But you’re also in on the plot… to overthrow! (laughs). And that’s kind of our thing. Boy, that’s a good quote, huh?! (laughs).”