During Raleigh Wide Open III last September, more than 80,000 people paraded through downtown Raleigh, wandering the carpeted hallways of the city's gleaming new convention center and standing in the Saturday night balm to hear Foreigner's Lou Gramm and watch as fireworks fired off-center from one end of Fayetteville Street exploded overhead. Standing there, fireworks reflecting off of his eyes, Eddie Taylor—longtime Raleigh resident, folk artist, bandleader and truth-teller—just laughed.
Taylor hadn't planned to be at Raleigh Wide Open, but, earlier that night, police shut down his rock duo, The Loners, during a gig at Sadlack's, the venerable old bar and sandwich shop that sits on Hillsborough Street alongside N.C. State's campus. Taylor, a father and husband, figured his family might as well see the music and crowd he could hear from his home about two miles away. With a smile on his face, he noted the irony: City officials were free to blast a few thousand pounds of congratulatory fireworks and listen to '80s rock several hundred yards from several residential enclaves, but his two-piece—loud, yes, but only as loud as a mid-sized combo amplifier, a drumkit and a modest speaker system will get—couldn't play a little homegrown rock 'n' roll along the town's collegiate aorta. Perhaps that helps explain why The Loners' second LP—a defiant, gritty blast that puts hardcore, album rock and proto-boogie on equal footing—is called Revolution! Taylor's tired of the overlords.
Revolution! opens with a knowing wink, a polite welcome for the faint of heart: The 90-second "Unicornacopia" pulls the curtains back slowly with its beautiful, finger-picked guitar instrumental. When the track ticks over, hell shakes free, Taylor's fuzzy guitar tone spilling all over the microphones of producer Greg Elkins. It feels close to the ears, as though the band's sitting on a downtown desk, playing for someone's frustration and demanding some attention. Chris Jones charges from behind, his cymbal-and-kick rattle bookending Taylor's thrum. The band puts the pedal to the floor here, redlining the engine and setting the cruise control for the entirety of the 31-minute marathon that follows.
Aside from smattered production flourishes (a siren here, a Varése nod there), The Loners brandishes its blunt sound like a broadsword. The beats are direct, the melodies linear, the lyrics menacing: Taylor chastises male/ middle-class/ white depression during "Breakdown Blues" and champions the quirk and chemistry of flowing away from the mainstream during the two-minute browbeater "Lo-Fi Mofo." He guns for the takeover during "Join a Militia" and invokes the power of the Weather Undergound and a new "rock 'n' roll constitution" during the whipsmart "Revolution!"
Perhaps such political rousing dates The Loners or paints the band as naïve, as if it believes something that's already been bought, sold and traded by the world's biggest companies can now save the world. But on "Crank It Up," this band's new answer to its old anthem, "Teen Rebel," Taylor tells us that he hopes it saves me and you and maybe him from our own rules, safety and comfort one spin at a time: "In the daytime, all the night/ Any ol' time that it feels right/ Down a highway, all alone/ Stick it in and turn it on." He wants you to hear this music roar if that's what you'd like, but he can do without the fireworks and feudalism downtown. Oh, and don't forsake the clubs in which bands like this can always find a home.
The Loners joins The Dirty Little Heaters and Pinche Gringo at Tir Na Nog Friday, March 6, at 9:30 p.m. Trent Bowles hosts the $6 show. Pay $10 and get a copy of Revolution!, which will be released digitally and as an LP in an edition of 500.