Lloyd’s Garage is what happens when Adam Duritz rides a time machine back to 1973 to lay down some tracks for Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night. It’s what happens when R.L. Burnside lunges out of his grave to cut a postmortem record with Pearl Jam. It’s Steve Earle jamming in his living room with Jimmy Page as Chris Robinson shows up at the door with a new song scribbled on his palm. And if Seth Heitzmann is to be believed, Lloyd’s Garage aims to be the “WTF?” inside the text cloud that blooms in the brains of people who go to Richard Thompson shows and hear that 60-something guitar god drop acoustic covers of tracks like Brittney’s Spears’s “Ooops! I Did it again.”
“You hear people say, ‘That song sucks.’ But usually it’s not the song that sucks. It’s the producer that decided to treat the song like a 6-year-old beauty contestant,” Heitzmann says as he explains the reasoning behind his cover of “California Gurls” by–(cough)–Katy Perry. “The frustration comes from sensing that there is something beautiful in there, but it’s been covered in goop by some bozo with bad taste. Well, we’ve done our best to strip away the bad taste to give you a chance to hear “California Gurls” performed by actual human beings.”
On the “California Gurls” cover and just about any Lloyd’s Garage song you can find, Heitzmann’s vocals indulge the warbling vulnerability of a Counting Crows ballad (think “Goodnight Elizabeth“) laced with a bruising, stripped-nude and rootsy brand of rock ‘n roll. And with drummer Lloyd Lewelyn hammering out his unending homage to John Bonahm on track after track, this San Francisco duo’s songs swing by like bloody fists in an old-fashioned ass-kicking contest. That appears to be the point, after all–to beat the shit out of bad taste, one song at a time. And if that is indeed the objective behind Lloyd’s Garage, then consider bad taste as Rocky Balboa begging Mick to cut a slit in his swollen eyelid so he can see what he’s swinging at. The only difference is that in this version of the movie, Rocky is pronounced D.O.A. at the hospital.
“With Autotune, it seems like the transition from music to noise is nearly complete,” Heitzmann laments. “We can now take all of the humanity out of a voice. WTF is going on?”
The band says that the video for their Katy Perry cover–which really is less a cover than it is an ambulance summoned to rescue the song from its fake plastic jailers at Capitol Records–is storming the internet like a wind-swept fire threatening the mansions of Malibu. But even if the video hasn’t quite done all that just yet, one thing is almost certain: you will watch it more than once, and you may even hear it sneak through the backdoor of your mind as you’re slurping down another low-budget lunch of Ramen and Fritos in your cubicle tomorrow. Check it out; I dare you to prove me wrong: