The Quad Cities psychobilly trio The Afterdarks wants to make an impression. The weapon of choice is a new 31-track CD - a collection of songs from the group's beginnings in 2003 to now, largely recorded by the current lineup.
There could have been even more. "Thirty-one's all we could fit," said guitarist/singer Jake Cowan, who gave a practical reason for the jam-packed recording: "Rather than take five albums and try to sell them individually, just re-record them, kind of fine-tune them, and put them on one album, and take one album on the road to sell."
The larger aim, said singer and bassist Joe Robertson, is to show record labels and music venues that the band is serious - that it can do more than lay down a handful of demos, that it knows how to pump out product.
Blood Sweat & Gears began as a typical 10- to 13-track full-length but evolved into a summary of the band's existence. The Afterdarks wanted to "draw a line in the sand and say, 'Here's everything up to this point. Now we can move forward,'" Robertson said. "I want to put us on the map. ... I want to actually have record labels take us seriously."
"We've got to let them know we're hungry ... ," Cowan said.
While it's too early to tell if the band has achieved that goal, the album is impressive in its heft and consistency. It's also - almost by definition - overwhelming.
I can't listen to Blood Sweat & Gears straight through without my brain going numb. But in small chunks and considering the songs individually, the record is strong - The Reverend Horton Heat (for whom the band is opening next month at RIBCO) crossed with the vocal, thematic, and sonic scuff of Monster Magnet's Dave Wyndorf.
The respites from the full-speed-ahead hard-edged rockabilly are more than welcome. "Blue Movie Queen," for example, slows it down and fills the spaces with atmospheric reverb, and the vocals and keyboards and six-string moan nearly blend together in the background. The muscular "I Ain't Dead - Yet" has a surf-rock vibe. "Hey Woman" indulges a country streak, and it hints at the band's versatility. If Blood Sweat & Gears had a few more stylistic detours, it would better sustain interest.
The full-speed-ahead hard-edged rockabilly works, too - there's just too much of it for a casual listener to absorb.
The band began in the horror-punk vein and shifted to a core rockabilly sound with the addition of Cowan in 2005. He said the shift was a function of his style and equipment - his hollow-body guitar and amp setup.
Robertson - who had been playing guitar - switched to upright bass, an instrument he'd never played and had to learn in a month. Drummer Tony Johnson rounds out the current lineup.
The Afterdarks say they want to keep things business-like from top to bottom. They have a manager, and that intermediary changes the tenor of negotiations, Robertson said. When bands approach venues directly, he said, "I'm not doing business with them. I'm another band asking for a handout. But when you have somebody that represents you, it becomes a business transaction."
While it's label-shopping, the band - as one might expect - isn't resting on Blood Sweat & Gears. Cowan said the band has 75 original songs. And in separate interviews, Cowan said of Robertson, "That guy could write an entire album in a day"; Robertson said, "I would sit down and write another album tomorrow if I had to."
Robertson added that he has the next record written already, and Cowan said the band wants something a little more modest in terms of the number of songs: "We're going to do normal-people things."
The Afterdarks will perform on Friday, July 24, at the Redstone Room (129 Main Street in Davenport) with the One Night Standards. Tickets for the 9 p.m. show are $5.
The band will also play on Friday, August 14, at Mixtapes (830 15th Avenue in East Moline), and will open for The Reverend Horton Heat at RIBCO (1815 Second Avenue in Rock Island) on Saturday, August 22.