Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sugar & Adrenaline

Dan Miraldi.  Sugar & Adrenaline.
Dan Miraldi, 2012.  Dan Miraldi:

In a world of post-rock, electronica, and plastic top 40, Dan Miraldi is a throwback.  He combines a variety of retro styles and influences ranging from Americana to punk, glam to garage, but never sounds out of date.  One can place him roughly in the power pop category, next to a lot of Cleveland bands, including the Raspberries, although the direct similarities to them end there.  Miraldi has boy-band good looks, a solid, and at times fiery guitar, and an expressive, clear tenor voice that is amazingly good.  While the press seems to compare his sound to the Rolling Stones and the White Stripes, he and his band remind me more of David Bowie, Steve Miller, Buddy Holly, the Standells, and even the Monkees, depending on the mood of the song.  

This is his second full-length album, and third overall.  In comparing it to his first, Thirsty, from 2009, it’s clear that he has matured in his arrangements, and his music is more complex, bringing in a wider array of instrumentation and mood.  His voice is his strength, and I really enjoy his direct, articulate singing style (I didn’t need a lyric sheet) which hasn’t changed a bit since the first album.  Miraldi also harmonizes nicely with his bandmates on vocals.  He still rocks hard, but mixes the uptempo burners with mid-tempo tunes and the occasional ballad, lending a greater variety to the whole package.

Most songs are short and sweet, with a tightness that is quite amazing.  Miraldi isn’t much for hanging around or taking extended solos (although it might be nice if he did a bit more on the guitar).  Endings tend to be abrupt and he never fades out.  The rhythm section is solid and keeps the band moving forward, but never takes the foreground, with nary a drum solo to be heard (again, something to consider for the future).  

The opener, “Few Rock Harder,” sets the mood of the album with a driving beat and strong hooks.  “The Runaround” is the track that reminds me of an old Steve Miller song because of its punctuating riffs, and slightly off-kilter tempo.  The track that is getting pushed for airplay (and the shortest song), “Road Warrior,” is another fast-tempo tune, with traces of Green Day as done by the Allman Brothers.  “Yonder St. Sebastian” gives us Byrds-like folk-rock vocals, but the next tune, “Vampire Girl,” takes us in a more Tom Petty direction.  “She Got Soul Part I” is in a similar vein, with Neil Diamond instantly springing to mind, and “Revenge” recalls David Bowie.  For empirical verification of my perceptions I called out the artists I thought of to my wife as the tracks came up.  She usually responded, “Hey, yeah!” or something similar.  Proof.

Miraldi needs to break out of the love song rut.  A couple of songs about something else (life on the road, The closest he comes is “Record Collection,” a story of his disillusion with his girlfriend’s pretentiousness and phony friends, that takes him home to his record collection, presumably a vinyl one.  His ballads are still a bit shaky, not melodically or in structure, but in the lyrical content, where he tends to try for worldliness (“Helen of Troy”), and ends up sounding like a college kid writing a song based on his last class.  Frankly, he sounds more sophisticated when he goes for an innocent approach, since it lends an air of honesty that can be interpreted as depth.

The title of the album is entirely accurate, with a combination of sweetness and speed that is quite infectious. It's fun, filled with catchy hooks, and the band performs beautifully. Dan Miraldi has some serious talent, and as he develops, I cannot imagine him not reaching a wider audience.  Give the guy a try.

Personnel:  Dan Miraldi (vocals, guitars, keys, organ, percussion, bass), Joe LaGuardia (bass), Sarah Luffred (drums, backing vocals), Alex Bowers (guitars, organ).

Tracks: Few Rock Harder, The Runaround, Now is the Right Time, Road Warrior, Yonder St. Sebastian, Vampire Girl, Record Collection, Helen of Troy, I Fall in Love All Over Again, She Got Soul Part I, Revenge, The Many Shades of Blue.

Jeff Wanser

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