© 2013 Max Recordings
Of the many bands that have sprouted from the Grifters, Dragoon may be the most Griftersy of all, building on the soulful lo-fi cacophony of the band's early 1990s material. What's surprising, however, is that Dragoon features neither of the original guitar players or singers. Instead, this is the rhythm section's offshoot: Bass player Tripp Lamkins and drummer Stan Gallimore formed the group with Little Rock native and former Trusty singer Bobby Matthews. The decade-plus since the Grifters went on indefinite hiatus hasn't dulled the musicians' menacing undertow. On Dragoon's debut, The Offending Party, Gallimore still estimates the beat and pounds out emphatic fills, and Lamkins continues to straddle the line between low/rhythmic and high/melodic. At times he's another thudding kick drum, other times another wailing lead guitar. These elements are familiar but welcome, as Dragoon captures the same barely contained chaos, the maelstrom just barely formed into music, as their previous band.
Matthews is the new factor in the group, and he simultaneously adds to the scribbly commotion of a song like "Problemo" and shapes it into something new. Trusty were briefly signed to Dischord, which explains the hardercore sound on The Offending Party, particularly the declarative rumble of "Chad's Lament" and "Idea Man". As a singer, he changes his approach on every song, showing off a lowdown howl on opener "Excuses Excuses", tiptoeing sneakily on "I Can Relate", affecting a mod accent on "Lugnut", and declaiming angrily on "Truce". Meanwhile, his guitar vies against the rhythm section for supremacy, as if Dragoon is less a band than a knife fight with instruments. "Problemo" threatens to fall apart repeatedly, as if Gallimore is sabotaging the groove. But the trio wrestle the song to a proper ending, and its midtempo pace makes it all the more seedily clangorous.
Rather than detract from these song s, that harsh instrumental friction actually enlivens these songs, distinguishing Dragoon from not only the Grifters and Trusty, but from all their offshoots and acolytes. When the power trio hits the straightaway stretches on "If You Say So" and "Golden Hips", they sound like their own band, beholden to no particular legacy and anchored squarely in the moment. These 90s refugees aren't living in the past: The Offending Party is worth hearing not simply because the current nostalgia for the last decade's lo-fi has made these musicians suddenly (more) relevant, but mainly because they sound like they haven't missed a beat in years.
— Stephen M. Deusner, June 21, 2010 [via Pitchfork]
It's tempting to start any review of Dragoon by saying something like, “Grifters fans who aren't paying attention to this band are missing out on a loud, crashing, chaotic echo from the past.” That would be an accurate enough introduction to the band's sound but it wouldn't really be fair. Former Grifters Tripp Lamkins and Stan Gallimore, who also make up Dragoon's expressive and always experimental rhythm section, have been playing together since they were in the 9th-grade. To no small degree The Grifters' sound was an extension of BOB, Lamkins and Gallimore's high school band. These guys have been working on a bass-driven fusion of prog, metal, punk and pop for decades.
“It's a conscious throwback to me and Stan's sound but it is absolutely not an attempt to sound like the Grifters,” Lamkins allows, describing his band's CD The Offending Party as his return to collaborative songwriting. “I love love love writing with Bobby as we are very much cut from the same cloth,” he adds, name-checking Dragoon frontman Bobby Matthews, formerly of the Little Rock/Washington D.C. Indie band Trusty.
Matthews brings a lot to The Offending Party but he's always been a Grifters fan and there are moments when he seems to be channeling Scott Taylor's pinched whine and Dave Shouse's cryptic rock-and-roll comic book poetry. This is especially true on songs like "Excuses, Excuses," a driving rocker that could pass for an outtake from So Happy Together or One Sock Missing.
Lamkins thinks there's another reason why The Offending Party may sound extra-Grifterly. “You haven't heard Stan rocking it hard in a long time,” he says. True enough, Gallimore has has suffered from tinnitus for years and until a recent change in treatment the loud noises he liked to make onstage caused incredible pain. “This was very much Stan's return to the rock,” Lamkins says. “So if Stan wants to beat the shit out of the kit then we encourage it.” On The Offending Party Gallimore, who has more than a little Ginger Baker in him and isn't afraid to crash the cymbals, does exactly that.
From the raw instrumental throb of "Push Pull" to the Improvisational swagger of "Impress Me" The Offending Party is a disc for those who like their rock hard, smart, and asymmetrical. At times it plays out like a less self-indulgent post-punk answer to "Industry"-era King Crimson minus the string section and the bird samples. At others it's full on Southern-style art rock played by a trio of alt-rock journeymen who know how to make an impression.
— via Memphis Flyer