New Mexicans

w/Crictor, Watery Graves
Thurs Aug 7, Crocodile, 9 pm, $6.

They may try to convince you otherwise, but the members of New Mexicans are not a terrible bunch of musicians. On the contrary, the local four-piece plays complicated, driving, heavy guitar rock on a par with Helmet and Drive Like Jehu, anchored by a drummer whose frenzy will fatigue your eyeballs if you attempt to follow his movements more than a couple of seconds. Continental Records came into being just so owner Marcus Lolario could put out a New Mexicans seven-inch. He wasn't the only fan to be instantly enthralled by their visceral appeal.

The band (singer/guitarist Rob Hampton, guitarist Joe Crawford, bassist Jeff Montona, and drummer Creighton Barrett) recently finished recording an album, with Phil Ek producing, and ever self-deprecating, they talk as if they were a bunch of blockheads who drooled, farted, and pawed their instruments until they were transformed by a master. "I felt like a speck of crud on the bottom of his boot," says Barrett, "because there was the issue of a metronome and a click track, and there is just no way I could ever, ever [use either of those]. [Ek] must have thought we were retarded. He came up to us once and said, 'Do you know you guys are on one-two-three time?' And we're like, 'Oh yeah, we knew that... uh.' It's fucked up how bad of musicians we were before we went into the studio. There's no excuse for that."

This might surprise folks who consider New Mexicans to be a technical band, because everything is so synchronized and there are a lot of stop-start points to their music. Says Hampton, "All that stop-start stuff is just because we don't know how to transition. We say, 'How are we going to make this work? Let's just stop, and start again.'" "And you," Barrett runs with the joke, "you keep playing and I'll go ttttst-ttttst. It's pretty retarded. I mean there are times when we are really pushing ourselves, it's not like we don't try to sound good. But most of the time it's just fucked up and... retarded."

So why do it? Chalk it up to boredom, and, for Hampton at least, a love of melody. "I've never been into punk rock, because it's boring. I can't really get into it because it gives me a headache when it's straight-ahead yelling. Like the Locust--I don't understand how people can listen to it when all they are is just a grinding headache. They're terrible." Barrett begs to differ, and counters, "They're amazing!" Hampton continues, "The theory of it all is fantastic... oh, whatever, I just can't stand it. Even Motörhead, back when they were good, had melody even though they were playing hard and fast. There was something you could get into, not just chugga- chugga hardcore. Snapcase is the good kind of hardcore because they have melodies, whereas Earth Crisis is a terrible hardcore band because it's all just growling and angry and makes you want to beat someone up."

New Mexicans may shine when it comes to menacing rock that comes across as melodic, but Hampton's vocal style could be classified as "screaming," too. "I don't even think of the vocals in terms of writing a song," he explains. "They're just add-ons later, after the song is finished. It's more about the music and us playing it together."

The new album, Chicken Head Talking Diamonds, probably won't come out until next February, but already the band feels that the stuff on it is so superior to the songs on their seven-inch that they can hardly stand to play the older material anymore. And like their notoriously short sets, the record is a scant 28 minutes, start to finish. Any fan can tell you that seeing the band for the first time usually takes a couple of failed attempts, because unless you are already at the club, chances are you'll miss the entire New Mexicans performance in the time it takes to catch a cab from Capitol Hill to Graceland. "We fuck you hard, real fast," says Barrett. "Crude as that is, it's how we play."

"If it gets to a point where people are actually coming out to see us," says Hampton, "maybe we will play a little longer. I just don't want to piss off the people who are already fond of us by going on and on."

"If more people come," smiles Barrett, "we might even play for 29 minutes."