Saturday, July 29, 2017

New To Me No. 5: Music Band, Wake Up Laughing

Yes, even the things you love best.
And now we turn to a fine, too little known act from Nashville, TN.

Music Band, Wake Up Laughing

The Gateway Drug
“Day Stealer,” an angry mediation on a bad relationship…with guitar!

The Backstory
I’m a sucker for 70s rock – or just old-school rock, generally – so I slipped “Day Stealer” to a playlist sometime shortly after the first chorus (live version; look, the band!). Between the quietly trembling opening chords and the crashing guitar that plays under said chorus, it possesses the kind of tempo/volume changes that keeps a song lively, and gives you something to look forward to (as in, “wait for it…and, big sound!”). Music Band also sneaks in a couple deft touches too – e.g., “I think I like it just fine” whispered in between the first verse and the chorus, as if the singer/narrator still needs a little convincing on that point.

The slick title doubles as an insult, but “Day Stealer” tells a pretty clean story about a guy who keeps saying yes to the wrong girl (“I ain’t your partner in crime”), but who’s now building a personal panic room to keep her out. And the second segment of each chorus – “She’s all I ever wanted…if all I ever wanted was a lie,” structured like a joke (e.g., set up/punchline), has the kind of blunt eloquence that makes good lyrics work.

The Album
Every so often I flirt heavily enough with the idea that “rock” is dead to say it out loud. Music Band makes a supporting argument, but in perhaps the most indirect possible way. And I say that having read their facebook bio (expand "Biography," and fuck facebook) – which makes me think they might beat me up for such blasphemy. That bio is worth the glance, by the way; it’s the best kind of manifesto, your basic cri de Coeur. Music Band does not apologize for what they do.

And they’re right not to. I’ve got the problem, and Music Band does not. There is not a bad song on Wake Up Laughing; I’d also put big money on them as a live act. On the album, they made the smart choice of having each song bleed into the next: the break between most of them last less time than taking a breath, and they sometimes even carry the tune over the break, as they do on “Raag, Pt. 1 & Pt. 2”; it often took me several bars to pick up that they’d gone on to the next song (otherwise, why bother with breaking up the tracks?). That lends a nice momentum to the listen, but they have a good mix of tempos, both between and within the songs, even if they always seem to itch for a higher gear.

So, yeah, good album and what’s my problem?

It probably goes back to spending three-quarters of a mid-length life listening to bands/acts that sound very, very similar to Music Band. Most of the stuff that excites me at this point needs something a little different to stand out – e.g. Mitski’s tonal brilliance, or the way Diane Coffee revived sounds and approaches to music that don’t stick around so much. In general, it takes something a little special, or just a touch off-kilter, for anything approaching a rock band to stir my stick at this point (while a form of nostalgic affection shields the bands I've loved for years from my sharper instincts). Between Wake Up Laughing and their bio, Music Band comes off as purists, the kind of guys who would scoff at the idea of playing anything but rock. And that’s cool.

To hang some associations on their sound, some of their songs recalled Tom Petty for me – e.g., “Don’t Call Upon Me,” the guitar riffs/progressions, especially had me thinking “American Girl – only with a heavy pinch of ferocity. Overall, though, they sound “roots rock,” if influenced by the heavier strains of alternative/garage rock. They’re no hacks lyrically, either. Some stray snippets I’ve picked up (all I have time for, sadly, against my deadlines) makes clear there’s more to figure out and appreciate. For that, see “Money” (“I feel OK, got some money but I am afraid/’cause money makes you lazy” (have I mentioned my hang-ups with rich people?); also live version, same van) or, better still, “Green Lights,” which offers up the lyrically daydream, “we could hit green lights the whole way home.” That could be why “Green Lights” feels like a favorite, but it could be that sound/tempo combo, too…damn, does that sounds like it’d be a hoot live.

Even though not all of the songs sound the same, I don’t have enough say about each to make sense of listing them. But, again, there’s not a bad song on this album and, as their name suggests, Music Band approaches their work with an appealing honesty and directness. Spending 30 years of my life listening to music that sounds enough like this something like eating...what's something I really love? Ah, curry. It'd be like eating curry every day. I fucking love curry. I just have my limits.

I can recommend Music Band to any fan of rock, though, and hope they come to Portland at some point when I can see 'em...and may they never read this...

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