By Jack Sharkey, November 6, 2017


Front to Back Album Review: J. Roddy Walston & the Business - Destroyers of the Soft Life

  • Released: September 29, 2017
  • Label: ATO
  • Producer: Phil Ek 



If you’ve ever seen J. Roddy Walston and the Business live, Destroyers of the Soft Life is a perfect name for anything this band produces. Essential Tremors, released in 2013, is a great rock and roll record – it’s noisy, loud and obnoxious and the much-anticipated follow-up Destroyers does not disappoint. Steeped in Gospel, Country and rockabilly, Walston is out of Cleveland Tennessee, but when they’re not out shaking the rafters on the road his raucous band is now based in Richmond Virginia. For those of you not familiar with J. Roddy Walston and the Business, think of a slightly less manic but much louder Ramones – they cut to the chase and get in and out of their songs without much pretense –  mixed with Led Zeppelin’s sonic bombast. 


“We had never been a band where we pretended that it’s 1965,” Walston said. “Loud rock and roll music has become less relevant because it’s just been on a loop,” he says. “If there was any rule on this record, it was, let’s be a part of music right now. I want to be part of living music in this moment.”


Walston is a piano player but other than the opening notes of Better Than Me you’re hard-pressed to hear much (ifDestroyers of the Soft Life any) ivory tinkling. What you do hear on this record is lot of guitar and a lot of extremely large and loud drums. You might think I’m saying that like its bad thing – I’m not. This is a rock and roll record stripped of all pretense and studio gimmickry. In fact, you don’t really even hear any low-end until the weirdly pretty Heart Is Free. You’re not going to listen to this album for the sheer sonic pleasure of the recording – it’s noisy, thick and the vocals are rough and smack in the middle of the mix, but what you will listen to this album for is the intensity and immediacy of a live band doing its thing in the studio as a live band. Overdubs are few and far between and piano and guitar leads are non-existent – this is a band doing what it does.


There are several standout tracks – Ways and Means and Know Me Better are two that jump out at you right away – but The Wanting is a track that will make every playlist you make the night before every big road trip you take from here on out. It’s a rock and roll song written and arranged specifically for an open Interstate driven at an alarming rate of speed.


One knock I have with Walston’s songwriting is that the melodies do tend to run into each other, even after you’re familiar with them. With all of the noise and loudness, that can be a little off-putting if you’re not completely engaged with the record as you listen to it, but it’s a minor complaint as the music and energy generally rises above the similarities.


Destroyers of the Soft Life is not a hi-fi affair. It’s all garage rock and noise and energy, which makes it such a fun record to listen to. Loudly. Very loudly. Walston’s voice is rough and always on the edge of completely breaking down so he’s not for everyone, but if you like your rock and roll loud and edgy, give up your soft life and turn this album up. Loud.