With the strike of an electrified chord that shimmers and glows like a shooting star, Spayed Koolie unleash everything they’ve got in “100 Years (Need),” a song that serves as both their rookie single and the opening of their awesome new album Ashtray Change. The gorgeous hook that “100 Years (Need)” throttles at us with full force is just the start of the good times and honky-tonk kicks that Ashtray Change has in store for us, and we become aware of as much as soon as its successor “We Ain’t Blind” comes roaring into full focus under the boot heel of a staggeringly heavy riff – the kind you wouldn’t typically find in an album by another, less talented country band.
“We Ain’t Blind” gets out of the way for “You Know” and its slow paced blues like a man on fire who suddenly falls upon a deserted lake, and it’s pretty wise to do so. There’s no stopping the carnal grind of “You Know,” and its chest pounding passion flows right into the clean cover of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl,” which really doesn’t need an introduction. Spayed Koolie pay a nice tribute to the legendary troubadour, but when “Stoney Cove” starts up in its wake we remember who this album is really all about. I’ve never been the biggest country fan in the world, but frankly, if more country records rocked as hard and confidently as Ashtray Change does, that might not be the case.
The chicken pickin’ of “Songwriter” burns off a little more down-home charisma tying Spayed Koolie to their rich southern roots, and it preps us for the heartland anthem that is the title track perfectly. Each song on Ashtray Change works exceptionally well with the one beside it with no major eclipsing moments, which is pretty hard to do with this style of music. No other artist would be able to stick a song like “Today is the Day” next to a cover of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe” and get away with it; Spayed Koolie, for whatever reason, have been able to develop a formula that allows them to literally play whatever they want and make it look like a newly discovered form of art.
Ashtray Change nears its completion with “Another Day,” but it doesn’t lose any of the steam that powered it through the first nine tracks at all. On the contrary, it’s in the last two songs when I think Spayed Koolie completely cuts loose and lets us have the full weight of its load. The closing track “Cold-Hearted Woman” is a picture window into the bones of the band’s identity in all of their metallic glory, and anyone who walks away from the song denying their interest in seeing this band live with a giant stack of amplifiers behind them is a bold faced liar. Country fan or not, Spayed Koolie’s Ashtray Change is a record that you’re not going to want to miss out – I know it’s songs won’t be departing my favorite playlist for some time to come.
-review by Jodi Marxbury