The Crack Pipes
Fake Eyelashes (Super Secret Records)
Reviewed by Tim Stegall, Fri., Nov. 9, 2018
Much has changed since the Crack Pipes' previous release, 2005's Beauty School. First and foremost, extraordinary guitarist Billysteve Korpi beat cancer, but at the same time, recording home Sweatbox Studios ceased. And if a 2005 rocked by the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, and the American political pendulum swinging hard right doesn't seem chaotic enough, 2018 feels suitably PTSD-riddled for all.
With Beauty School, vinylized last year by Super Secret Records' reissue subsidiary Sonic Surgery, singer Ray Colgan, Korpi, drummer Mike Corwin, bass plucker Nick Moulos, and keyboardist Coby Cardosa proved that the locals possessed a huge, wide-ranging musical scholarship and they were gonna use it. The resultant art-garage squall took in a broad stylistic sweep. As Colgan says, "Yes, I love Captain Beefheart, but I also love Louis Armstrong." Songwriting became the focus, and the album showed the Crack Pipes to be the true sons of the Lord High Fixers, Austin's previous garage rock kings.
Thirteen years later – and 23 into their career – the group retains the same quintet that crafted its four previous studio full-lengths. Songs begun in 2007 remained, joined by fresh material from Estuary Recording Facility, and now Fake Eyelashes picks up where its predecessor left off – highlighting both song craft and genre hopping. Special guests aid the sonic expansion: Enduro/the Damn Times/Transgressors guitarist Chad Nichols drops in on the opening jangle-pop title track, the überfunky "Sha-Zam" features Riley Osbourne's thick Hammond organ, a Funkadelic-tinged "Giraffe" boasts remarkable free jazz sax skronk from Gospel Truth/Art Acevedo's Mark Tonucci, and the Fifties-flavored "Sea of Beverly" lilts behind Ro-Tel & the Hot Tomatoes' Milaka Falk's oohs and aahs.
The remaining seven titles veer all over the art-garage firmament. Frat rock riffer "Lil' Cheetah," soul clapper "Bang Bang Bangs," and statement of purpose "My Underground" all move and groove. Yet it's that interplay between the core Crack Pipes instrumentalist – especially Korpi's articulate, inventive six-stringing – and Colgan's sanctified church vocalising that remains the front-and-center of Fake Eyelashes.
Alongside fellow Aughties garage-punk heroes the White Stripes, the Crack Pipes continue to prove this music needn't stay stuck in 1965. Fake Eyelashes continues pouring and mixing new and exciting hues on garage punk's palette. We're the better for it.