Sensory Overload: Barely Eagle

From the November 22, 2012 edition

In the early days of my Columbus music immersion, Church of the Red Museum was a budding sensation. It was 2006. I had just graduated from OU and moved back to Columbus to work at Alive. Carabar was a year old, and all the most exciting bands were playing there. That included Church, whose blend of Tom Waits’ churlish howl and the Murder City Devils’ gothic garage punk was thrashing my senses regularly.

Thus, I was stoked to see some of its core members realign under the name Barely Eagle. I witnessed this Saturday at Carabar, an appropriate venue for such an encounter.

Important context: Before Church, all four members of Barely Eagle (Tom Butler, Brian Travis, Bil Jankowski and Ricky Thompson) played in another band called Go Evol Shiki. I never got to see that band, but judging from a quick spin through the music on its MySpace (heh) page — and from the fact that ALL FOUR MEMBERS ARE THE SAME — Shiki seems to be a closer template for Barely Eagle.

For one thing, Butler, whose voice kindly greets CD102.5 listeners five nights a week, is back to yelping and shrieking after pulling sideman duty in Church. And while Barely Eagle’s music is less rooted in Shiki’s spastic Brainiac-style jerks and more in sludge metal and Albini-style minimalist bombast, there is a common thread of repetitiveness, a tendency to drill an idea into your brain.

This process began unceremoniously, before I realized what was happening, with “There’s Something Wrong With the Kids,” the slow-building sneer from Barely Eagle’s debut single. DJ George Brazil leaned over and described it as stoner metal meets T. Rex, which seemed right.

Things got less melodic and more intense from there. “We’re gonna kill the California kids!” was among Butler’s screeds. There was punchy bass out of Primal Scream’s XTRMNTR, serious tremolo shredding, Butler wringing noise from his sizable pedal board. Most impressively, there was the gleaming aggression of single B-side “Guns Don’t Kill People, Barely Eagle Kills People.”

They ended with a stomping, simplistic riff that just got louder, darker and angrier until finally dissipating into a single repeated power chord. If they were attempting to sway me through hypnosis, they succeeded.