This week your PopCulteer has two treats to share with you. We have reviews of two great new albums by expatriate local musicans. Both are offically released today, and we’ll tell you how you can get copies below.
I played a track from Kevin Scarbrough’s new album, Rock The Patriarch, on this week’s episode of Radio Free Charleston, and next week we’ll kick off the show with a track from the new album by The Heavy Editors, The City At Night. The Heavy Editors features singer/songwriter/guitarist Joe Vallina, who aging local scenesters may remember from the bands Blind Blue Leper Society and Feast of Stephen.
A quick note about my local music reviews: I will gladly review any new album or single release by any local musician. All I ask is that you get in touch with me in advance through the message button over at the Radio Free Charleston Facebook page, or leave a comment here on the blog and I’ll get back to you via email. There have been so many great new CDs released this year, and I would be glad to review them, but past incidents have persuaded me to only review CDs by artists who want them reviewed.
So you gotta let me know, folks.
So let’s jump into the reviews, shall we?
Rock The Patriarch
Available frm Bandcamp
As I knew from Kevin’s previous album, Birthright, he is one talented musician. On his new album, Kevin plays all the instruments, save for a guest stint by Aaron Fisher on drums on one song, and this new collection of songs is pretty amazing. Since we last heard from Kevin, he has left the area with his family, and is now living in Texas, but much of this album was recorded before he left, when he resided in Charleston.
Stylistically, Rock The Patriarch straddles the worlds of Classic Rock, Alternative Rock and 1970s Art Rock. More than anything it sounds like a lost album by a group like Crack The Sky or City Boy, and coming from me, that is high praise. Lyrically the songs are contemporary, exploring themes like social media, the water crisis, bullying, aging and writer’s block. The songs are clever without being obnoxiously so, and my only gripe is that there’s not a lyric sheet to make it easier to follow along.
The opening track, “Algorithm Rock” is a driving, almost New Wave, tune with killer guitar lines. “Yellow To Brown (Fair Warning)” is a slightly funky groove with Zappa-esque vocal arrangements and a hook that will stick with you. “Salamander Man” is another great rock tune that I believe is about a totally new mythological creature, and not the guy in the unitard from the Filthy Frank YouTube videos. It’s a great track, and you’ll hear it next week on RFC.
Kevin starts off with an almost Ramones-like tack with “Middle School,” which is also a nice shot of nostalgia-wallowing, lyrically. The song becomes wonderfully complex with the middle eight, and ends with a killer hook. The next track, “Another One On The Egress,” sounds like a collision between Crosby, Stills Nash and Young with Pink Floyd, only better.
The mood changes with “Unsatisfied Animal,” which really sounds so much like Crack The Sky that I’d almost nominate Kevin to join the band. The production on this track is just perfect, from the vocal arrangement to the final mix. “White Paper, Black Pen,” is a great slow groove about how hard it is to write a song. “Impetus Worm” is a great New Wave-ish tune with hints of DEVO in the chorus.
The final track, “End of the Day” sounds like classic Progressive Rock, with a complex arrangement and lush harmonies. “O for Operative” is a great lazid-back collection of conspiracy theories set to music. It wraps up the album on a high note.
While I have mentioned a lot of other artists in this review, I don’t mean to suggest that Kevin is imitating anyone. He has developed his own style and has grown considerably as a writer and musician since Birthright, but as a reviewer, it’s my job to suggest what his music reminds me of, and with the first-rate musicianship throughout, plus the tight harmonies on the vocals, Keven just happens to remind me of a lot of my favorite music.
Rock The Patriarch is impeccably-crafted, highly-intelligent rock music, and you should give it a listen. You can buy it at his Bandcamp page. Also of note to local folks, the album cover is by Chris Woodall, and the back cover features an illustration by Mark Wolfe, both of them bastians of the Charleston art scene.
As I write this, The City At Night has just gone live on the band’s Bandcamp page. The City At Night is pure power-pop gold. The Heavy Editors are my old buddy, Joe Vallina on guitar and vocals, along with Wally Bird on drums and John Rapoza playing bass.
Filled with crunchy guitar licks, clever lyrics and delicious backing harmonies, The City At Night is great modern rock for a post-rock world. This is the type of music you wish would take the world by storm and save us from the over-produced, artificially-created dreck that dominates the charts these days.
The album kicks off with “Meltdown,” an upbeat New Wave-inlected tune about anxiety. This song would not be out of place on an album by the legendary cult band, The Shoes. Next up we have a new recording of “How The West Was Won,” which was a standout track on their debut EP a couple of years ago. “Slaves” is a pean to being a cog in the labor machine.
The title track, “The City At Night,” is a moody bit of musique-noir that paints a vivid musical picture without being too specific. It’s a pretty deep tune. Following that up is the fun and bright, “To the Phonomatic,” that is just perfect ear candy. “Faces on the Clock” has a bit of an Americana feel among its laid-back groove.
A song I recognize from one of Joe’s solo releases, “On TV,” is a fun, upbeat tune, presented in a more polished version here. “Alien Lover” is a great little rocker that was released as a single last year. It’s another fun, short tune with a great hook. The next track, “Within Reach,” slows things down a bit with a more reflective tone and a nice, relaxed groove.
The album ends with “Time,” a great, poppy song that manages to remind me of The Monkees, XTC, Weezer and The Who, all at the same time.
The City At Night is a cool collection of short, punchy and excellently-crafted blasts of pure power pop, with a little punk thrown in for good measure. It’s available now at The Heavy Editors’ Bandcamp page.
And that is this week’s PopCulteer. Feel free to check back for all our regular features and hopefully your guide to all-new musical programs next week on The AIR