The History of Southern Garage

Atlanta’s Black Lips belong to a long and winding lineage of garage rockers and twang-infused punks from the South, and continue that tradition with the new release of their eighth album, the Sean Ono Lennon-produced, Satan’s Graffiti Or God’s Art? In addition to hugely influential labels like Goner, the region has coughed up a slew of the genre’s most notable pioneers. With “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” Lone Star State psychonauts The 13th Floor Elevators created what may very well be the single most important song in the mid-’60s merger of garage and psychedelia, while the lo-fi bash and screech of Memphis heavyweights Jay Reatard and Oblivions are central to the evolution of modern garage punk (with each spawning a slew of projects, spotlighted in our playlist).

It should come as no surprise that a good chunk of Southern garage rock soaks up the region’s more renowned flavors: blues, soul, gospel, and rockabilly. The Moving Sidewalks, Billy Gibbons’ pre-ZZ Top outfit, blend orange sunshine-fueled fuzz with the kind of greasy R&B swing heard in East Texas juke joints; Alex Chilton’s “My Rival,” from his 1979 cult classic, Like Flies On Sherbert, is a brain-blasted concoction of ’50s boogie and eccentric New Wave that has more in common with Swell Maps than Big Star. Seratones are another telling example—the young band from Shreveport, Louisiana, have in AJ Haynes a powerful singer equally inspired by gospel and distortion-caked punk.

But there are plenty of garage rockers in the South who aren’t the least bit rootsy. Nots, one of the hardest and hottest bands to emerge from Memphis’ always fertile scene, are cold, brittle, and jagged, just like old-school post-punks on Rough Trade (Kleenex, Delta 5, and Stiff Little Fingers). In contrast, Nashville’s JEFF The Brotherhood devote a lot of their creative energy to cutting garage with hook-littered power pop, glam, and shambolic indie rock. But enough chatter, people—it’s time to press play and lose yourself in a whole mess of Southern-fried snarl and reverb.

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