Michael Rank & Stag – Kin

Chapel Hill’s Michael Rank is best known for his notorious combo Snatches of Pink, which formed in the mid ’80s and traced a boozy, brawny Johnny Thunders-meets-Replacements path into the early ’90s. Following a hiatus during which Rank released a folky solo album, Coral, and also published a book of poetry, Snatches resurfaced in the new millennium with new members, going on to issue three albums during the ’00s including 2005’s Stag – hence the moniker of Rank’s latest combo. Kin, in fact, features musical contributions from both early and latterday Snatches players as well as members of Dex Romweber Duo, Trailer Bride, Two Dollar Pistols, Patty Hurst Shifter and Chatham County Line. Don’t expect a party album, however, for Kin is a dark, edgy, at times brutal chronicle of a marriage that crumbled and the bile-encrusted aftermath.

The two-CD set, with its overtones of Blood on the Tracks and Shoot Out the Lights, could crumble under its own weight of recrimination, what with Rank unspooling accusatory lyric after lyric: “wish I’d never seen your face”; “I didn’t lie when I said that I hate you”; “the damage that gets done ‘round you, that damage now is mine”; “you’re a curse.” (Rank spits out the word “curse” like a man who’s been punched in the face ejecting a bloody tooth.) But twinned with an ever-shifting musical point of view that runs between country, folk, bluesy-Stonesy twang, piano/guitar ballads and even some Snatches-like punk/garage, these songs attain a vibrancy that gradually steers the listener towards a much-needed catharsis. From the countryish, lap steel-powered “On the Bleed” through the Alejandro Escovedo-esque “Arrowheads” to the raging, blazing, dissonant closing track “Here Comes the Light,” Rank consistently manages to get under your skin. And in his existentially-scarred, emotionally-scorched yowl, you find reasons to care about his fate.

Kin may be closer to watching a tragedy unfold onscreen than listening to a rock album, but for anyone who’s ever found themselves on the receiving end of a relationship going south, it rings devastatingly true.

Michael Rank & Stag
[Louds Hymn]