Positioned between a large wooden owl and a group of tipsy 20-somethings doing their best to get tipsier, Jeff Murphy expounds upon the dangers of over-weedling.
“The weedling is to be used sparingly,” explains the guitarist for instrumental Vegas power trio The Bitters, detailing the perils of six-string wanker-dom over a beer outside Boulder City’s Coffee Cup on a recent Saturday evening. “I was a weedler for awhile. I used to love to do long solos, 24 bars, every bar pre-planned out. I just got bored with that.”
The fruits of this boredom have blossomed all over The Bitters’ ace new record, Yes Is IV, which could be described as the best-ever Vegas party-prog album. Yeah, The Bitters are an absurdly technically proficient bunch—you won’t hear better bass playing on any Vegas release this year than what Vinny Moncada does here, though you may very well wonder what the hell you just heard—but they’re way more Frank Zappa than Rush in terms of irreverence, concision and just plain fun.
The players: Moncada is a ’70s prog diehard who’s never owned a Metallica record. Drummer Frank Klepacki gets plenty funky in both The Bitters and in long-running, hot-blooded soul troupe Home Cookin’, but he also brings a pronounced taste for metal to the fold via expert double bass drumming and even the stray blast beat on IV. Murphy is somewhere between those two, musically speaking, fond of left-field sounds and ’90s noise-rock square pegs like The Jesus Lizard and Steel Pole Bath Tub.
Together, these contrasting tastes congeal into a band skilled at penning dense, compact jams that have never sounded more crisp and alive than they do on IV. “This was the first time we ever spent any time or effort dressing up our little record,” Murphy says. “We did little effects here, a little reverb there, made this sound different than that sound.”
On April 21, The Bitters will play their first show since last June when they team up with Black Camaro at the Bunkhouse. Show up—and try to keep up. “You can take it or leave it,” Murphy says of his band’s live gigs. “But it’s not going to bore you.
The Bitters with Leather Lungs, Black Camaro, Strange Mistress. April 21, 8 p.m., $5. Bunkhouse Saloon, 702-982-1764.