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Thee Sgt. Major III: Unadorned Joy Through A Tube Amp

Thee Sgt. Major III's exuberant "New Painter Man" blends giddy girlishness with a hard guitar crunch.
Joe Mabel
Wikipedia Commons
Thee Sgt. Major III's exuberant "New Painter Man" blends giddy girlishness with a hard guitar crunch.

Kurt Bloch is the sort of character who kicks around a scene for years, decades even, impervious to trends as he plugs ahead doing what he loves. Punk, metal, grunge, neo-folk, art-punk, math-rock and who knows what else have all come and gone in Seattle music while Bloch, as a member of The Fastbacks and Young Fresh Fellows — and as a producer of many likeminded acts — has been everywhere and invisible at the same time.

That's partly because he's never in the spotlight himself, happy instead to stand just off to the side playing a spirited, not-quite-sloppy guitar part that encompasses both power-chord chug and hook-laden riffery. Continuing in largely the same vein as the now-defunct Fastbacks, Thee Sgt. Major III's "New Painter Man" finds Bloch once again paired with a female singer whose giddy girlishness tempers his rhythm-guitar crunch, and vice versa.

The song is girl-group by way of power pop; Leslie Beattie's "Hey now, hey now" refrain winks at the Angels, although the beat has been simplified far beyond anything that would support the kind of dancing necessary to win their hearts. It's exuberant without being sappy or simplistic, even as the song's words roll off Beattie's tongue without saying much of anything. Or maybe that's not true. With tiny dabs here and there, she applies light but curious strokes before closing by singing "Everything you do looks like you" while Bloch, as the engine beside her, plays the only thing he knows: unadorned joy filtered through a tube amp.

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Marc Hirsh
Marc Hirsh lives in the Boston area, where he indulges in the magic trinity of improv comedy, competitive adult four square and music journalism. He has won trophies for one of these, but refuses to say which.