Liquor Giants leader Ward Dotson seems destined to languish in obscurity despite his key roles on some of the best rock albums made in the last two decades. He played guitar on the first two Gun Club albums, splitting before the band garnered most of its acclaim (and before it became a caricature of itself). More impressive and truer to his personal aesthetic were the four albums he then made with the Pontiac Brothers, whose three albums in the 80s delivered some of the best straight-up Stones-style rock of the decade. By the dawn of the 90s the band had broken up amid chronic disinterest from the press and record buyers. Just for fun the Pontiacs made a great reunion album in 1993, but again nobody noticed. In the meantime Dotson began fronting the Liquor Giants, a sporadic side project with shifting membership that addressed his love of 60s rock with more specificity than any of his other bands--"Copycat," from the band's eponymously titled third album, was something of a guilty plea. That album and the two that preceded it, all released by different labels, are wonderfully raunchy and off-the-cuff, chockablock with massive hooks. But the Liquor Giants' latest, Every Other Day at a Time (Matador), is easily their best. Now flanked by steady help, including Pontiacs singer Matt Simon--on drums--the ragged glory of Dotson's songs gets the treatment it deserves. Bassist Mark McGroarty and guitarist Mark McNally contribute delightful Beach Boys-like harmonies to Dotson's melodies, but unlike Brian Wilson acolytes from the High Llamas to the Olivia Tremor Control, the Liquor Giants rock with unfettered gusto. As a complement to the new album they've also released Something Special for the Kids (Blood Red), a charming all-covers collection, full of lovingly rendered garage obscurities from groups like the Move, New Colony Six, and the Zombies. This is the band's first real tour, and though a performance I caught at South by Southwest was rather clunky, Dotson's exuberance couldn't be crushed. Saturday, 9 PM, Limerick Public House, 13404 S. Old Western, Blue Island; 708-388-6755. Sunday, 9 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 773-525-6620. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Steve Crist.