Tuesday, May 25, 2010
GOOD CATCH - The first five...
Traditionally, the second album is usually a golden opportunity for a band to try too hard and over-reach. The need to transcend a solid first album can result in either a quick turn to the lure of commercial success, or a more experimental or “personal” work that succeeds in only alienating a fan base. The McLovins have successfully avoided the sophomore slump by going forward with their rock-solid new release GOOD CATCH.
The majority of the tracks on this 11 song disc have come straight from the band’s recent high energy live performances. This is a thematically coherent release; with each piece integral to the greater whole. The trick for a jamming band is to take songs that flourish in a live setting, traditionally given a 15 minute workout; then distill them down to a manageable length. Distillation is a good allusion, as these songs gain a vital potency when extracted down to their core. The group mind is on full display as drummer Jake Huffman handles the lead vocals and Bassist Jason Ott contributes the back-up vocals. Jason and Jake along with Guitarist Jeff Howard all contribute to writing both the music and lyrics as the credits are shared.
The album opens with Tokyo Tea, and is followed by Deep Monster Trance, both straight ahead party jams, nimble and lithe, with outstanding guitar and bass work. Tokyo Tea in particular benefits from Jake's staccato cymbal work, and Jason's ropy bass lines. Jason has moved forward further into the mix, his bass dominating Tokyo Tea as well as contributing backing vocals to another song on the disc, the reggae-chill Milktoast Man. One of the biggest surprises of the disc is the ballad This Town. This tune is a showpiece for Jake, as it features some of his most mature lyrics, and sung with a laconic drawl, the song is positioned as a breather after the musical ferocity of the first 2 songs. Jeff plays a couple different tracks on this cut a very sweet acoustic along with his traditional Strat riffs.
Milktoast Man slides in as the fourth song on the disc, and primes the pump for the following songs. Jason in particular shows up well on this cut, nimbly tackling the backing vocals and dropping bombastic bass licks. Hell Yeah is up next, this was previously the second cut on the Virtual Circle ep that was released last fall. I believe this track is a different mix than the ep version, tho every bit as unrelenting as anything the band plays. This covers the first five songs, tomorrow I'll tackle the second six which includes the 3 new songs.
The genre has shifted a bit from their last album Conundrum, you can call it progressive jam or jazz rock, and musically the stakes have been raised a bit. This band has the chops and is fearless; walking the razor’s edge has become second nature to them and as with any band, they are the sum of their influences. For your traditional jam band, ground zero is either Phish or The Grateful Dead. The Mclovins have been schooled in traditional jazz, funk and soul as well as jam and rock. There are times when a familiar musical turn may catch your ear, but this is a surprisingly original work. If asked to describe their sound they will say they sound like The McLovins, and soon enough, everyone should know what they mean.