Strange… when I was assigned this album to review, I was vaguely familiar with the band and went to check out a couple of the early songs released from the album. I wasn’t blown away by them at the time. With that said, I approached the album with some apprehension, even knowing the members of the band have a wealth of greatness among them. It turns out I was either in the wrong frame of mind to hear the early songs, or they did not necessarily immediately translate in the video format to me. At the end of the day, this has become a very enjoyable album for me, which sounds fresh, even if it channels its sound from the glorious nuggets of the past.
Perhaps the difference in how this album came to life for me is the brilliance of opening song ‘Coat-Tailer,’ which I had missed on YouTube. The tasteful group vocals that open it with the classic feeling rock n roll guitar that is buoyed by the piano perfectly set the table for the album. The harmonies are outstanding, and there are multiple lines in the song that will get stuck in the listener’s brain. The guitar solo by Elliot Easton is right on the spot. Second song ‘Remember Days Like These’ features Ringo Starr and is a song that I have a feeling I will like more down the line. It has been a slow grower so far and really reminds me more of something Phil Spector would have produced. The band gets right back into the classic rock n roll vibe with ‘Well, Look at You’ featuring some great horns and a killer chorus. Wally Palmar’s smooth vocals are perfect for this music. They continue to mix things up with the bluesy ‘Jonathan Harker’s Journal.’ The sound effect laden intro suits the opening guitar perfectly. The rhythm work of Clem Burke (drums) and Andy Babiuk (bass) is razor tight and establishes an awesome groove. The vocal work here is awesome as well, especially throughout the chorus.
The up tempo ‘Sometimes Shit Happens for a Reason’ once again takes us back to a classic rock feel with a song that should feature on a cool indie romantic comedy. This song reminds me of everyone from John Cafferty to the rocking side of the Texas Tornados to the light hearted side of Bruce Springsteen such as ‘Glory Days.’ At this stage, this is probably my favorite song on the album. Follow up song ‘The Best That I Can’ keeps the rocking going but suffers in the shadow of the previous song for my tastes. Each member gets a chance to show off their musical chops here. Much like ‘Remember Days Like These,’ I think this one will benefit as the album gets more and more plays in the time to come. ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’ roars in as another nuggets style rocker that features more brilliant vocals by Palmar. This is another brilliant slice of poptopia that should receive a ton of plays on Little Steven’s Underground Garage.
‘Come On and Try It’ was one of the songs I heard before listening to the album, and it still really does not grab me. I think part of it is that refrain of ‘nah nah nah nah’ just feels repetitive in this rocker. In the context of the album, I like it better, but this is not likely to be a song that I seek out to play on its own. The ballad ‘The World as we Know It, Moves on’ definitely works better for me as a great change of pace song with some tasteful backing vocals in the chorus. It is also one that does not overstay its welcome either. ‘The Haunting of the Tin Soldier’ settles into a midtempo feel which features some great drum work by Burke but still one of the ones that doesn’t fully grab my soul.
The closing group of the album starts with the attitude filled ‘Death by Insomnia.’ The harmonica work here adds a great feel to the song with the slow bluesy groove designed to get the body moving. This is another one of my early favorites from the album. ‘The World’s Gone Insane’ was another song I heard on YouTube prior to the album, and I like it much more here. The rocking tempo serves to get the album in full rock n roll mode again with a classic feeling riff. The chorus is simple but hooky. I cannot see it ever being my favorite on the album, but it is one I look forward to hearing when I play the album. The closer ‘Indigo Dusk of the Night’ is also the longest song on the album with its acoustic introduction immediately different from everything else on the album. The lyrics paint a picture that you can experience throughout all of your senses. Musically, this one could sit on the Beatles ‘White Album’ and really makes a great finale to the album. The added instrumentation as the song moves forward is terrific, and I imagine it will sound even better on headphones. The closing of a door then ends the record.
This album really provided me with a nice surprise and hit that nuggets sweet spot while still sounding current and fresh. I am very glad that I did not let the first song or two I heard ahead of the full album form my impression of the whole record. This album will be receiving a lot of plays, and I anticipate several songs from the album will make their way onto monthly playlists of mine in the future.
‘The Second Album’ is available now. Buy Here
Author: Gerald Stansbury