Things get dark and heavy on the Gary’s second EP, El Camino. With these six songs, recorded by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in mid 2010, it sounds like the weight of the world is pressing down on the band. Coming hot on the heels of their criminally overlooked debut full length, Logan, El Camino burns slowly with most songs feeling more like “Hurricane Sunrise” than “QSB” (both Logan standouts). And make no mistake; sounding like the product of a long haul Austin-to-Chicago roadtrip is not a bad thing. The Gary have consistently excelled at making songs for the darkest hour of the night, when the last drops of beer have run dry and it’s time to go home and face our realities. El Camino is no exception.
Nowhere in their songbook is the the Gary more gravefaced than on opener “Here In The Last Days” and “Awhile”; to say bassist Dave Norwood sounds exasperated and resigned would be an understatement. With a rage simmering just under the skin, Norwood and drummer Paul Warner make “Here In The Last Days” into a pounding dirge. Over the heavy thud of Warner’s drums, Norwood wistfully intones that a sweet shadow is already falling across him here in the last days. Spurred ahead by Warner’s drumming, the Gary stomp straight to the brink, ready to fall off the edge into the abyss. And when Norwood sings that he’s “in the space between words/the all consuming chasm” before claiming that he’ll “be with you in a while” on “Awhile”, these aren’t the words of a man behind a cash register asking a waiting patron for a little patience. These are the words of a man burning the candle at both ends as things fray and falter. Whatever is eating the Gary from the inside is driving them deeper into the darkness.
Even on the Gary’s brightest songs, there’s always been an edge of darkness creeping in. Norwood, at his most optimistic sounding, is always singing from the corner of the local dive. El Camino’s highlight and brightest moment, “Rope”, sounds like the entire band piled into the corner booth and joined Norwood with the intent of fighting back — after a couple pitchers of beer. Trey Pool’s rolling guitar lines twist out of the speakers and dance across Texas’ sawdust covered bar floors as Norwood defiantly claims “the only way to go is up now!” All hope is clearly not lost and on “Expiration 2” – a followup of sorts to “Expiration” from the Chub EP – The Gary sound like they are up, slightly bleary eyed, and ready to face the dawn. The Gary aren’t close to their expiration date; more like they’re just ripening and hitting their stride as one of Austin’s great rock bands.