The Pontiac BrothersView in iTunes
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"Our singer was a drummer, our drummer was a bass player, and collectively we had all the drive of a perpetual hangover," wrote Ward Dotson of his band the Pontiac Brothers, and while that statement gives you a clear picture of the band's self-effacing attitude and fondness for beer, it doesn't tell you that they were one of the best and most purely enjoyable American bands of the '80s, embracing the joys of vintage hard rock with a punk's jaundiced eye well before the grunge explosion made such things fashionable (and doing so with far greater humor and less pretension than the Seattle contingent). Ward Dotson, the group's de facto leader, was best-known as a former guitarist for punk blues trailblazers the Gun Club, but he left the group in 1983 and formed the Pontiac Brothers with fellow guitarist Jon Wahl, bassist Kurt Bauman, percussionist D.A. Valdez, and lead singer Matt Simon. The band cut their first album, Big Black River, for a French label in 1985, but when the band finally scored an American deal with the L.A. indie Frontier Records later that year, they dropped half the songs and recorded a batch of new material for their stateside debut, Doll Hut. Wahl had left the group by the time they cut 1986's Fiesta en la Biblioteca, which added a weightier '70s hard rock edge to the group's "Replacements meet the Stones" approach. While the band earned a loyal cult following (including kindred spirits the Replacements, who stuck a copy of Doll Hut into their video for "Bastards of Young"), the band's witty meat-and-potatoes rock was somewhat out of place in the mid-'80s indie rock scene, and they never found the larger audience their work deserved. After 1988's Johnson, the Pontiac Brothers decided to hang it up, but four years later, the band gave it one more try, writing and recording the witty and surprisingly open-hearted Fuzzy Little Piece of the World within the space of a month in 1992; the band mounted a West Coast tour to support the album, and haven't worked together since. Since then, Dotson has led the Liquor Giants, who briefly employed Matt Simon as their drummer; short-time guitarist Jon Wahl went on to form Clawhammer. ~ Mark Deming