Two songs into a September performance at the VERA Project by local rockers Murdock, and the band is striking a variety of rawk! poses—legs wide, eyes closed, heads banging or bent in intense concentration. Frontman ALX Karchevsky, a polite guy who works days as an EMT, alternately throws himself brutally about the tiny stage, tosses his microphone perilously high in the air, and leaps down into the audience to give someone in the 100-strong crowd a little face-to-face demonstration of his exquisite rock and roll scream. The band is, in short, the epitome of just about every Neanderthal-rocker-on-a-testosterone-bender stereotype. And oh yeah—Karchevsky's fly is wide open.
This potentially embarrassing little scenario, like all the many, many potentially embarrassing things that come out of a Murdock show (or a Murdock member's mouth), is actually just another pitch-perfect detail of the band's impeccably tailored collective cock-rock persona. In fact, Murdock's rock-star vibe is so pitch perfect—from virtuosic, "do me now" guitar solos to a deadly ZZ Top cover ("Tush," naturally)—that it's almost campy. But this shit is for real, motherfuckers. Murdock are dead set on bringing butt-rock back—with a vengeance, of course.
Depending upon who's telling the story, the name Murdock is either an homage to the demented pilot from The A-Team or short for—I kid you not—"Murder Rock." They formed in March 2003, after guitarist Lou Molitch and Karchevsky, dissatisfied with another band in which they were playing, started playing with drummer Brandon Ramsey and bassist Jake Hagan; second guitarist Danny Even joined this past April.
Amplification, the quintet's debut, was the result of a handshake deal with Local Cannery Records and a demo boldly sent to legendary producer Jack Endino. Endino's touch is apparent on Amplification, which is tighter and slicker than most debut albums on a minuscule label from an upstart band that's only been together a little over a year should be. But some of that polish is also the result of the undeniable prowess of Murdock's members, and the band's irrefutable ability to tap into all that was good and all that was so bad it's good—in the kind of classic rock that's defined by your older brother, not your dad.
Which isn't to say some of your dad's definition isn't in there, too. Take "Piece of You," which opens with Karchevsky howling "Yeeeeeaaaah" in tried-and-true "throw me your panties" fashion before segueing into a self-aggrandizing ZZ Top swagger and then a more leisurely "Teenage Wasteland"–esque strut. It's about sex. "Whiskey Business," a menacing AC/DC–via–Mötley Crüe romp that Karchevsky calls "the essential working-man's song," is about drugs. Everything else is about—you guessed it—rock and roll, from GN'R to Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd to Zeke. Amplification's solos and grinding jams are so hypermasculine that you begin to wonder if Murdock doth protest too much. Karchevsky, almost without fail, ends nearly every song with a "Ye-eah" or "Come ooown!" The song titles—"Rock N Roll & Outta Control," "Texxxas"—are incredibly dumb. The lyrics ("Pot-smokin', beer-drinkin', fuckin' shit up" is just one of the Pulitzer Prize winners in "Whiskey Business") are even stupider. All of which just makes the whole thing even better.
Murdock are living those rock-star clichés to their fullest, from regular pre-gig strip-club stops to sleazy stories of tour debauchery that the band insists remain off the record because "my poor old mom might read that," says Jake "Ladies, it's not going to suck itself" Hagan. Even claims that Murdock's music seems to lend itself to certain behaviors: At one recent show, "We saw, like, just random girls that—it's like the '80s again—[were] just happy to show you their tits."
Along with an ever more demonstrative fan base, Murdock have, unavoidably, found a few detractors, as well. "They think we're unoriginal," says Hagan. "That whole testosterone thing, it just pisses some people off," Even concurs.
Perhaps it's best to let an era so riddled with questionable behavior and imminent offense remain buried in its shallow, head-crushed-beer-can-littered grave. But then again, we all probably have a darkly secret soft spot for the cock-rock canon, if we choose to admit it. (My own includes a history of cruising around with my girlfriends, bellowing "You Shook Me All Night Long," and a weird, desperate crush on Billy Gibbons.) In some ways, a cock-rock revival is roots-rock's logical next step—and Murdock have the audacity, as well as the chops, to pull it off.
Murdock play Graceland with Electric Frankenstein, the Nasty On, and the Insurgence at 9 p.m. Sat., Oct. 23. $10.