Though he may not be aware of it, secluded in his Vietnamese prison cell, Gary Glitter’s legacy is not only alive and well, but thriving in 2007. On their groovy glam-jam “Yadnus,” !!! used the “Rock `n’ Roll Part 2” beat to great effect, while New York’s innovative Battles turned that very same drum stomp into a robotic post-prog anthem. A third band from within the Borough—The Boggs, has finished the hat trick with “Arm in Arm,” a glam-tinged, scruffy indie pop single that incorporates the unmistakable rhythm into a much more unkempt and eclectic sound. Steel acoustic guitar strings ring out, trumpets blare and frontman Jason Friedman intones, “we’re on our way.” And by the end of the song, one realizes there’s not much very glam about it at all. In fact, it’s hard to say what, exactly, it is, other than a great example of how to keep indie rock interesting.
Forts, the Boggs’ third album, has a scrappy, garage rock sound, and yet it has a folk-rock hootenanny appeal as well. It sounds very much like New York contemporaries such as The Strokes or French Kicks, and yet the first time I heard the record, I assumed they were Swedish. It’s not so ridiculous when you hear the record. Traces of The Shout Out Louds, Peter Bjorn and John, I’m From Barcelona, The Hives, Concretes and Love Is All seem to appear from one song to the next, so it’s only natural that I might make that assumption. In any case, that long list of groups should give some indication of just how wide Friedman & Co. cast their sonic net on this elaborate affair.
The aforementioned “Arm in Arm” is a definite standout, catchy as all get out and fun song to which one can bob his head and stomp his foot. The leadoff title track stomps, claps, clatters and clangs, yet its melody and riffs twist and turn in elaborate patterns. By comparison “Remember the Orphans” is a messy, straightforward rock song with chants, “Woo-woos” and a drunken, pitch-imperfect vocal delivery. Taking a turn into a completely different direction is “One Year On,” a graceful, string-laden folk waltz, among the prettiest moments on the album as a whole. There’s bouncy punk rock in “Bookends,” hushed bluesiness on “The Passage,” Fall-inspired post-punk in “Melanie in the White Coat” and chaotic effects experimentation in “If We Want (We Can).” In fact, style-wise, it’s almost frustratingly inconsistent, but the group more than makes up for it by making each song incredibly interesting, and more importantly, enjoyable.
More than a collective than an actual band, with members of Enon and Au Revoir Simone among others rotating in and out, it only makes sense that Boggs avoid sticking with one coherent vision. Forts is an adventurous listen, and even throws in a little Glitter amidst the messy mixture. Though every song is, somehow, by the same artist, this album makes for quite the mix tape.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.