Even as they played a stripped down version of their song “Kingdom Come” to an almost empty room during a Paste Studio session last year, Seratones were spitting fire. The quartet, based out of Shreveport Louisiana, has been preparing for this, the release of their debut full length Get Gone, with some serious character, a fantastic showing at SXSW 2016, and musicality backed up by a unique brand of southern rock that is textbook “bad as I wanna be,” but doesn’t solely rely on its ability to sound raucous and huge.
The drums that kick off the official recorded version of “Kingdom Come” are decidedly jazz influenced, like Art Blakey going hard behind an MC5 cover band. Inversely, right as the last 30 seconds of the song hit, the instruments drop out before front woman/guitarist AJ Haynes lets out the words “I’ll leave you bound and reeling, but I’ll be your best believe me,” and the band proceeds to completely Lose. Their. Shit. Seriously, the outro is brutal enough for 10 lifetimes. As rough and tumble as it gets, there’s a strong current of rhythmic lyricism running underneath everything.
Flow, in the vocal and lyrical sense, isn’t a word that people are ever leaping to attach to any type of indie rock, at least not in the same way that they’ll actively attach it to their interpretation of what’s happening in a hip-hop song. Get Gone only highlights that the fact that the word isn’t made more applicable to vocals across genres is weird. With so many bands, their assigned genre dictates what they’re going to do and how they’ll do it, but when it comes to Seratones, we’re thinking about it the other way around.
The thing that seems to drive Seratones’ sound is a focus and on extremely lumbering but deft musical passages. Rather than how well they work the genre, It’s how well they work their skills as musicians without indulgence that sets them apart; especially when it comes to the drumming or the gospel-trained vocals of front woman/guitarist AJ Haynes. With the opener “Choking On Your Spit,” Haynes slices through the mix, over the rolling wall of sound provided by the rest of the band. The drums swing just a little bit, and the melody never sits right on top of the beat. Listening to the whole album, “swagger” or “flow” are definitely keywords one should be able to regularly associate with Haynes’ vocal style.
In terms of mirroring the same intentionality with which they attack the album’s shorter and more hard-hitting cuts like “Trees” or “Headtrip” on subdued songs – like the insatiably mellow but driven “Chandelier” – given the 11-song tracklist in tow, the band is relatively successful. They’re really good at packing in lots of tightly developed phrases that never overstay the welcome, but the natural trouble arises, when it comes to some of the lengthier tunes. Long cuts like “Tide” or the less than eventful “Don’t Need It” see the band struggle to get their momentum to carry over. These songs definitely represent the presence of good ideas executed in such a way that they don’t yield powerful songs.
Once you have the chops, playing fast things will always be easy, and from that point on it’s all about whether you can slow down, and on Get Gone they can’t make the commitment to a slow moment like the one at the beginning of “Tide” without simultaneously committing to a repetitive song. One can’t help but feel like, in these moments, they simply take too long to get where they’re going. It doesn’t help that the lead guitar and Haynes’ distinct vibrato, both things that bode well for a majority of the album, on the closer “Keep Me,” either feel out of place or a little lifeless. It would have been nice to see the type of really melodic chord play from the slower parts of the song “Chandelier” show up here, but instead we get pretty uneventful guitar arpeggios feeling like filler that doesn’t add anything.
The skill is there, the raw attitude is there, and more often than not the intensity is there backing it up. Despite a few major lulls, Get Gone, for the better part of its run time, is a sharp, unique, and enjoyable record brought to you by a band that has all the energy and musicianship required to ensure each listen is going to be a good time that gleans something new.