LOCAL GREATNESS is dealt in pairs: There was Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Asa Lovejoy and Francis William Pettygrove, and, of course, Fred and Toody Cole. The historical reach of the latter might never be regaled in textbooks, but for their countless devotees with Dead Moon logos etched into their skin—or more casual followers who prefer the less permanent, yet equally iconic, Dead Moon T-shirt—the Coles are the very foundation of local music.
The ragged king and queen of Clackamas, the Coles reside in an awe-inspiring monstrosity of a home that hangs heavy with moss and the weeded tentacles of overgrowth. It's a punk rock version of The Munsters residence, the very sight of which would frighten the neighborhood children—that is, if they actually had any neighbors in this isolated parcel of creativity that resides down a snaking gravel path, hidden off the grid. There are beavers in the back (or "goddamn beavers," as Fred refers to them), and a car graveyard in the front. That's about it.
With a pair of cigarettes permanently perched on their lips, the Coles—along with drummer Kelly Halliburton—sit inside and tell tales of various European tours, the side effects of not wearing earplugs for over 40 years (Fred now relies on a hearing aid), and raising three kids while balancing the instability of being a touring musician. Nearing their 43rd year of marriage, the Coles are absolutely charming, a couple so long in love that they eagerly finish each other's sentences (albeit they do so with the occasional burst of profanity).
Assuming we are all well versed in the Fred Cole lore—his hippie caravan running out of fuel in Portland 1966, the countless monikers (the Weeds, the Lollipop Shoppe, Zap Spangler, the Rats), and the legend of Dead Moon—we can skip four decades of backstory and move on to Pierced Arrows. As the band nears their three-year mark, they are no longer residing in the looming shadow of their previous bands. Freshly signed on the dotted line to Vice Records, Pierced Arrows are treading on foreign soil, no longer just a cult act making the rounds to placate their artistic urges and deafen a few rabid followers in the process. Their crowds are larger, the press is kinder, and their latest in a seemingly endless parade of releases, Descending Shadows, is as jittery and passionate as anything the Coles have ever been linked to.
Descending Shadows is quick out of the gate with "This Is the Day," which challenges Dead Moon's "It's OK" as the most inspiring piece of music in the Coles' vast canon. In it, Fred's voice channels the nervous urgency of Love's Arthur Lee, a comparison Fred welcomes. "Back in the day the Weeds used to cover the first Love album and we actually brought that band up here because nobody in Portland had ever heard them before." Any sort of initial inspiration quickly vanishes with the paranoia of "Buried Alive" ("My spirit's in a ditch, a machine's replacing me"), and the dooming "Ain't Life Strange," which is anchored by Toody's wounded yelps and a chorus that nicely balances the couple's intertwined vocals.
With Halliburton in the fold, there is a newfound pounding fury behind the Coles, and if he feels at home alongside Fred and Toody it might be because he's been there nearly all his life—Halliburton's father played with Fred in a band in 1972. "That's part of the mythology that I've grown up with over the years," Halliburton explains. "He was four years old, hanging out while we were practicing," Fred adds, bringing the storied legacy of the Coles' past and present full circle.