My car broke down and I was living under an overpass in East LA. I had been listening to Vaz’s new record “Chartreuse Bull” all week through the tinny speakers of my computer because my super expensive “review writing” headphones were back in my SRO in Chinatown. Sometimes tinny little speakers don’t do a band justice, and I suspected this was the case with Chartreuse Bull, so I traded the back wash from a fifth of Ancient Age for a bum’s United Airlines headphones. This made all the difference.
There is nothing namby pamby about Vaz. Originally from Fargo, North Dakota, founding members Paul Erickson and Jeff Mooridian migrated to Minneapolis in the 1990s, and formed noise metal rock band Hammerhead. Hammerhead did pretty good, and if you’re lucky you can chase down one of the cassette tapes they were usually released on, maybe trade it for some backwash from a fifth of Ancient Age in the alley behind your local dollar store. You’ll recognize the guy listening to Hammerhead. About 45, greasy hair, and bearing an unmistakable likeness to Sloth from The Goonies.
After they lost guitarist Paul Sanders, Mooridian and Erickson struck out as the duo Vaz, later becoming a trio with the addition of guitarist Tyler Nolan. They’ve been through lots of other changes, including a variety of record labels, but that’s what happens when you keep going for nigh on twenty years.
The expression of American angst through music is something we could use a lot more of these days, and a recent resurgence of bands which do just this has led to what is being called a resurgence of the “pigfuck” genre, a term first used by NY music journalist Robert Christgau back in the 80s. That’s all fine and good, but a close listen to Chartreuse Bull shows a much large pallet than just the smash and spatter of heavily distorted guitars and wayward amphetaminized drumming. The track “Neon Sunrise” is a delicate modern composition, and on “The 2nd” the vocal melody is a nicely enervated counterpoint to Mooridian’s drums.