Aggressively melodic and surprisingly surreal, much like the seven songs that precede it in the tracklist of Terry Ohms’ latest record Cold Cold Shoulder, the gritty sonic brutality of one “That Song” perhaps captures the essence of Ohms’ new album better than any other composition it’s neighbored by on the LP, but don’t get me wrong – it’s hardly the only reason why I would tell curious indie rock aficionados to give it a listen this February. Cold Cold Shoulder is an icy juggernaut that wastes no time in getting us addicted to its chilly grooves and static melodies, the best of which are scattered throughout every song it contains.
Ohms’ lead vocal actually sounds a lot more vulnerable in tracks like “What Do You Mean, What Do I Mean?” and “Where You Coming From” than the music in the background would suggest it should be, but the emotional contrast found in these two numbers makes some of the more memorable fireworks on Cold Cold Shoulder all the harder to forget. Juxtaposition is a critical element in holding all of the scattered eclecticisms together in this LP, but rather than overstating this theme (or any we could infer from the compositional style), Ohms is careful to avoid the pitfalls that come with excess here.
There is some really exceptional tonality worth writing home about across the whole of Cold Cold Shoulder, with guitar worship getting a second life in “King of The Mountain,” “IMO JSYK BTW,” and the feedback-laden “Making The Most,” and I think that while Terry Ohms was clearly rejecting a liberal aesthetical narrative in this record, he certainly wasn’t about to go full-board conservative with the string-powered sludge (thank goodness). He’s wise enough to know that, while trends come and go in rock n’ roll, the relative hunger for guitar bombast hasn’t gone anywhere since Hendrix closed out Monterey Pop; the only thing that’s actually changed is the cosmetics.
Tension is a very important ingredient in the construction of Cold Cold Shoulder, and without its insertion in “Rock of Gibraltar,” “Where You Coming From” and the aforementioned spitfire surrealism of “That Song,” I’m not convinced that this album would be nearly as haunting and joyfully enigmatic as it is with each and every listen it’s afforded. Terry Ohms might not have the reputation for it at the moment, but he deserves to be credited more for his arranging skills, which inarguably put the perfect seal over this unrepentant treasure chest of chaos and decadence.
If you’ve never heard the music of Mr. Terry Ohms prior to 2020, Cold Cold Shoulder should be at the top of your list for new albums to acquire this February, as it is almost certainly the best example of his artistic prowess you’re going to find on tape. Ohms comes undone just seconds into this tracklist, pummeling away at harmonies and equally heroic grooves as though this were meant to be some secret swan song to the world, but based on all of the passion heard in this disc, it would surprise me a great deal if this were his last stand in or out of the studio.