IF Kurt Baker is a new name on you then I suggest you sit up, Pay attention and get your purse at the ready. How could you not agree with that statement? It doesn’t matter what guise Baker releases music under be it solo or Combo or whatever the guy can do no wrong. He has a fine ear and knows exactly what is required to make a sumptuous ear caressing tune.
What began as noises emanating from a Maine basement is poised to be the soundtrack to a pandemic as Kurt Baker gets back to his roots on this rocking new album.
“The idea for the Combo was always to be a band that showcased my more Garage/Pub Rock/Punk side, while the U.S. group is firmly rooted in Rock/Pop/Power Pop,” explains Baker. Counting those two albums with the Combo, ‘After Party’ is the artist’s sixth full-length record, in addition to his previous work with Pop/Punk band The Leftovers.
After heavy airplay on Little Steven’s Underground Garage and touring in Europe and the U.S. It seemed that the wider world was in on our little Rock and Roll secret that’s been cooking for a while over there.
Wyatt Funderburk, who produced, engineered and mixed the record, also played guitars and co-wrote all the songs with Kurt. The pair previously collaborated on songs for many of Kurt’s releases before he moved to Spain. “The fact that the songs came to us so easily, after such a long time not working together, made me realise how special this collaboration is,” Kurt recalls.
Keyboardist Kris Rodgers is now a successful Wicked Cool recording artist in his own right. The recent single “She Likes To Party” by Kris Rodgers and The Dirty Gems follows up “Every Little Crack,” which Stevie Van Zandt declared the number one Coolest Song Of The Year for 2018. “Kris shines with his vocals on ‘Wandering Eyes’ and piano on ‘A Song And A Drink.’”
Also on guitars is Geoff Palmer, well known to Underground Garage listeners with his band The Connection, who’ve received Coolest Song honors multiple times. “His guitar playing is just so Geoff and he makes sure you know that.”
Craig Sala, who has played with everyone from John Entwistle to Captain Kangaroo, rounds out the group on drums. “He tracked all the songs in a couple hours – a few in just one take.”
Most of the album was recorded in the basement of Kurt’s parents’ house in Portland last year. Funderburk tracked drums and finishing touches in his Nashville studio. “The best thing about these sessions was when we were all together singing into the same microphone, each of us doing our vocal parts, with Wyatt coaching us like Brian Wilson during a Pet Sounds session,” Kurt recalls.
Kurt rode out the terrifying early months of the pandemic in his Madrid apartment, amidst the epicenter of the first wave in Spain, where restrictions were serious. “Even when I’d go for a five-minute walk to the grocery store, the police would stop me to question what I was doing and what I was going to buy! It was a bit surreal. One thing that saved me during the lockdown was that each day Wyatt would send me a new mix of the record. This kept me positive and excited.”
The record opens up with ‘New Direction’ Nah he’s not gone death metal or techno, however, I’m sure if he did then he’d pull it off and make it most listenable. Anyway where was I? oh yeah, ‘New Direction’ immediately lockdown doesn’t quite seem so bad after all. The keys are light behind the big backing vocals and meandering guitar licks its classic power pop. Had Cheap Trick opened their new album they’d be back playing enormadomes. The middle breakdown is cool with the spoken words just smile and chew your bubblegum with a bit of attitude.
‘I Like Her A Lot’ has a bit of punch like Baker had been playing some Green Day perhaps for inspiration. The song motors along and sounds fresh as. You’ll be singing along before the first play is over. It’s a shame chart music isn’t full of songs like this anymore. If the kids only put down their game consoles and played some sunshine Rock and Roll maybe the world would be a better place, there would be more parties that for sure. Love the hook on the chorus and they nail those backing vocals. ‘Wandering Eyes’ is a killer track.
Baker drops a line in the inspiration pond and pulls out a staple from the fab four songbook for the light ‘Waiting For You’. We then build it back up with the new wave tones of ‘Good’ sure Costello looms large here but its shaping up to be such a great record so far and we’re only half way through and we’ve ventured through several of the power pop subgenres and done it with that seal of quality that comes with a Kurt Baker record.
The record continues to ebb and flows really nicely from the easier listening of ‘Used To Think’ with its doo wap diddy BVs through the synth-heavy ‘Keep Dreaming’ to the harder rockin Ramones meets Green Day vibe of ‘She Don’t Really Love You Dude’. ‘A Song And A Drink’ is a strange one something of a jazzy barroom number with a really dreamy vibe but an impressive vocal from Gina Brown to bring this one home and something that sits nicely on this record but not something I’d generally gravitate towards but hey, there’s a first time for everything.
To close this record off Baker pays tribute to Single Bullet Theory and it leaves you filled with hope at the end of the record and no matter if you’re feeling lousy this will pick you up as it builds and builds and confirms Kurt Baker as something of a power-pop genius and once again hes crafted along with the help of some supremely talented friends and musicians that ever clud indeed has a silver lining and ‘After Party’ is a lockdown tonic we should all take a swig of. Get on it!
Pre-save/Pre-add ‘After Party’ Here
Stream the single ‘Over You’ Here
Author: Dom Daley