On their new album, Bruce Magnus tweak the past to come up with something surprisingly fresh. Recorded at Cloudland-Recording Studio with Mean Motor Scooter’s Joe Tacke (Washed Up Rookie, The Mullens, Slothfist) and Rebekah Elizabeth (Garage Barrage, Washed Up Rookie, Uncle Toasty) running the soundboard, Elevate is 11 tracks of pure unhyphenated rock ’n’ roll laced with some extended jams and lyrics straight out of the days of Little Richard and Fats Domino. Over a throbbing bassline and crunchy riffs on “Shred and Go,” frontman Samuel Fatzinger soulfully sings, “Hey, Mama, you’re looking fine / I got the rhythm if you got the time / Hey, hey, Mama, you wanna speed with me? / Shred and go! / Shred and go!”
Is anyone else rocking this way these days?
The tracklist plays off novel situations. The song “Lot Lizard” was inspired by a late-night post-gig trip to Waffle House.
“Our song titles come naturally and aren’t put into too much thought,” said bassist Aaron Richter. “They’re simple and fun. I would say for sure that we’ve never seen a lot lizard before, but we play off the fictitious ideas for song titles.”
Bruce Magnus spawned from a previous group, The Loose, that played the circuit for about a year before disbanding. The Loose’s Fatzinger, Richter, and drummer Billy Hildreth stuck together and added guitarist Camilo Grisales to form Bruce Magnus. The sound is simple yet complex, straightforward yet subtle. It resists easy classification.
“It’s rock ’n’ roll,” Richter said. “We can’t let people define us as a band. We aren’t necessarily into labels. We play different types of music however we feel that day.”
Since forming in 2018, the group started out playing monthly gigs at The Peppermill Lounge on the East Side and cut an album, 2019’s High on the Mountain, before finding more solid footing at MASS, the Near Southside venue that the guys said is their favorite place to play. Their upcoming gig at Mavericks in Arlington has been canceled due to the pandemic.
Wherever they play, Richter said they go all out. “It doesn’t depend if we’re playing to 10 or tens of thousands of people, but we bring the type of energy as if we were playing a show to the tens of thousands.”
The latest album doesn’t necessarily draw from life experiences the way High on the Mountain did, but Richter said listeners interested in weird and dramatic experiences would find a lot to love on Elevate.
One thing that keeps Bruce Magnus going is the desire for growth, to transcend obstacles, to keep plugging.
“Put in the work so you can elevate,” Fatzinger sings with his raspy voice on the title track. “Give it away ’til you’ve got it all / Oh! / Give it away ’til you’ve got it all / Hey! / Put in the work.”
There’s an enticing, retro minimalist quality to the songs, though they are by no means simple. It’s not funk. It’s not jazz-rock. It’s not jam-band-y, and it’s not Southern rock. Bruce Magnus is quite simply “rock.” –– Juan R. Govea
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