Easy Pill to Swallow
If you like guitar soloing this is a first ace up the sleeve for this release, extended ‘melodic’ solos, and by that I mean not raucous or industrial or virtuoso [this later in that ‘look-at-me’ zone of playing, as good as it may be]; or it can be a little funky rhythmically as the opening to Random Thoughts.
The group label themselves as ‘psychedelic rock’ and that’s fine, and it is, and from bands they cite as influence like The Velvet Underground I hear some of this, and also some of that extended playing from another, The Grateful Dead. A mention of Bob Dylan is, well, just a core influence on anyone musically inclined I would have thought, and this may inform some of the folkrock elements of their songs.
I do like how each song breaks into its instrumental jams – and as I am listening to Random Thoughts in writing this, it is Todd Nocera on keys [organ here] getting a showcase; drums pulsing a rhythm by Jon Kleinman; the bass playing of Dave Fischer walking a punchy up and down, and then dual guitaring from Hyram Stephens and Matt Hays develops gently and, again, melodically – reminding me just a little of Byzantium. This formula also reminds a smidgen of The Outlaws, though the band’s singing isn’t about harmonies.
This track and second Joanna and closer Desperate Dora are all at 10-11 minutes long and facilitate this. I don’t think the vocals are the band’s strength – and I don’t mean they’re naff, at all. There is an echo of Willy Vlautin at times [would seem incongruous if it was as pronounced as this] but that’s what I pick up – and I actually like the natural, unaffected honesty of this.
In an unambiguous celebration of another influence, the Jack Bruce/Pete Brown classic SWALBR gets a cover as the album’s sixth track, the dual guitaring signifying the strongest homage. At just under three minutes, it is faithful in this respect too. This is followed by The Netherlands, a slow drawl of a song that in this case reminds me of early NRBQ [and that’s not just to get another acronym in the paragraph].
Joanna is my favourite on this album: Joanna, she cut off all her hair for me; Susannah, she couldn’t see what I could see; Liana, she never laughed she talked too much; Corina, she said that I was out of touch is a semi-sprawling, rhyming narrative that continues, Christina, she drove a nice convertible, Sabrina she said I was incurable, Maria would only let old men pursue her… After all the cigarettes I’ll join the line of celibates and after this litany of love’s experiences the song breaks into some wonderful guitar and keyboard playing. No, not a Vlautin narrative, but it has its genuine charms. As does the whole album.