Graded on a Curve: Endless Boogie,
Vol I, II

For a long time, the earliest records by Brooklyn’s expansive yet primal rock groove machine Endless Boogie were frustratingly expensive in physical form. Happily, this pricy circumstance is no longer a reality, as No Quarter is offering their first two releases as a 2LP set in a snappy gatefold sleeve. The limited color vinyl option has sold out as quickly as the originals did back in 2005, but the flat black edition is still available, as are 2CD sets (if that’s how you roll), but I somehow doubt they’ll be around forever; folks into raw bluesy psych-tinged rock with nods toward raga, Detroit, Germany, and a humid dive bar late on a Saturday night should grab Vol I, II without delay.

The sound and the concept captured on Endless Boogie’s Volume 1 and Volume 2, both released in the middle of last decade on their own Mound Duel label, the first in an edition of 500 and the second totaling 299, is essentially the same. Concept? Well, yeah. It is the documentation of an endeavor undertaken primarily for the enjoyment of those directly involved, and then released in finite amounts for others with a predilection for what’s been created, and of course the inside scoop that it exists.

Captured with two mics and a tape deck, Vol. I, II is decidedly lacking in commercial polish; some might even suggest it sounds like a practice tape. If so, I’ll add that it hits my ear like a practice that transformed into a late-afternoon jam, going down on a Saturday in the company of roughly a dozen friends. A quarter century later, they still reminisce about its impact. Yes, not quite 15 years have elapsed since these half-dozen selections emerged on wax, but there’s a timelessness to Endless Boogie’s approach that suggests perseverance over time.

The fact that the band has thrived while generally eschewing a careerist path only reinforces the possibility of continued longevity and relevance. These tracks, two each on sides one and three with the long jams on the flips, were memorialized shortly before guitarist Jesper “The Governor” Eklow, bassist Marc “Memories from Reno” Razo, drummer Chris “Grease Control” Gray, and guitarist-vocalist Paul “Top Dollar” Major departed for the UK to play All Tomorrow’s Parties in 2005. That may read like a big deal, and no doubt it was, but the festival was also curated by Slint.

To elaborate, David Pajo is a member of Slint and also played in Zwan with Matt Sweeney, who along with his cousin Spencer contributes to the Volume 2 track “Style of Jamboree.” What I’m driving at here is Endless Boogie being the sort of thing that often gets passed around between friends. Naturally, it helps if there is a shared interest in such enduring propositions as The Groundhogs, The Stooges, Amon Düül II, and John Lee Hooker.

It’s easy to blend this friend theme with the practice/ jam concept; just drop needle on the first side of Vol. I, II, close the eyelids and imagine the band conjuring up the sustained psych-tinged riffage of “Outside of My Mind.” The garage door is open and a few friends, cheap beers in hand, are already hanging around, heads bobbing in approval.

By songs’ end (nearly nine minutes in), the number of listeners has doubled. Feeling encouraged and loose, the band leans a little harder into the riffs of “Dirty Angel” as Major’s distinctive vocals spill forth. This underscores a main component in Endless Boogie’s achievement, specifically how they extend but don’t meander. Instead, they bear down and roar forth.

I guess for folks not on its wavelength, the nearly 25-minute “Stanton Karma” could get a little repetitive, but on the other hand, the same can be said for any lengthy rhythm-based music that a listener isn’t particularly receptive to. Speaking as someone who is quite amenable to Endless Boogie approach, “Stanton Karma” succeeds through a subtle ebb and flow of bluesy intensity, coupled with a gradual pace that accentuates a swampy atmosphere and plenty of wah pedal secretions, especially toward the finale.

LP two begins with “Came Wide, Game Finish,” which reminds me more than a little of the Stooges circa Fun House if they’d cultivated a heavier psych-blues-rock vibe instead of scratching that free jazz itch. Or more succinctly, this here’s the real Electric Mud. With Sweeney and Sweeney on board, “Style of Jamboree” is short enough to be a single, though I surely doubt that was the intention (there are a couple 7-inch records in the discography, however).

With the additional hands, the sound is thickened and rawer, which is a nice change-up leading into the other long piece, “Morning Line Dirt.” This is the one I’d play as an introduction for the fans of ’60s Bay Area psych. They do climb a considerable plateau of heaviness as Major lets it hang out there vocally, but more important are the lengthy passages where the guitar mingling enters a zone of beauty.

The truth is that anybody who’s ever hung around a friend’s weekend band practice for more than a couple of songs knows that special moments in this setting are about as rare as the original LPs comprising Vol I, II. Just because Endless Boogie have eschewed the career path doesn’t mean their brand of rock is retrograde; to the contrary, it’s amongst the most rewarding sounds on the scene, and from a home turntable standpoint, this is where it all started.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A

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