Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Midnight Slander. The Long Way Home.

The Midnight Slander.  The Long Way Home.
Spectra Records, 2014.  The Midnight Slander:

The Midnight Slander is a Cleveland band, I think. But the lead singer spent time in South Carolina, so you think you’ll hear something Southern. I guess there is, but not as much as you’d expect. They’re a trio.  But they sound like a four-piece outfit, because the drummer also plays keyboards at the same time (I can’t brush my teeth and scratch myself at the same time). Their music sounds familiar, but not in a ripoff kind of way.  More of a comfortable way. Laid back Chili Peppers with early Doobie Brothers mixed in. Mellow Black Crowes. Van Morrison living in Ohio. Is there such a thing as alt.roots rock? I don’t know if these are actual influences, but this is what I hear as I work my way through their first full-length album. They put out an EP before this, but I haven’t heard it.  Maybe I ought to, because this one's really good.

Most of this was recorded at Lava Room Studios in Cleveland, with some unspecified stuff done in Charleston, South Carolina. Nine tunes, and each one is something different. The instruments are the same, but the band changes styles, going from rockish to funkish to swampish. Dave Conner, the lead singer, moves with it, and while sometimes he paces himself like Anthony Kiedis or Chris Robinson, he sounds sort of like a folk singer too. It’s a good sound, because he doesn’t really sound like anybody I can think of.

“Shattered” isn’t the Rolling Stones tune. It’s probably the most “southern rock” song on the album. Solid, chunky rhythms make it kind of odd, but cool.  “Runaway” takes off faster, and gives me that Doobies feeling, and Conner’s singing on “Bright Lights” reminds me of Meat Loaf, but the rhythm is solidly Creedence in style. “Ohio” isn’t the CSNY song, and I’m glad. It’s funkier and not such a downer, with a Paul Simon lyric takeoff. Conner’s voice gets gruff and dirtier (not that way) on “Love.” The organ solo is a nice touch. A couple of obligatory ballads show off their tender side. There are a lot of damn fine tunes here!

It’s not an earth shattering album, but they say on their website that they’re not trying to do that.  The music’s fun.  Excellent rhythms keep you moving, vocals are engaging, and the musicians do a great job.  My game of “catch the influence” shouldn’t stop you from checking these guys out. They’re on the bill at the Agora this Saturday, so no excuses.

Personnel:  Dave Conner (guitar, vocals), Mike Gray (drums, keys, vocals), Al Rodriguez (bass, vocals).
Tracks:  Shattered, Runaway, Bright Lights, Ohio, Chords, Love, Open Road, Tennessee, For You.

Ron Yoyek

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