By Tom Reardon, October 2019 Issue.
As we ease our way into fall, the records coming our way are pretty darn fun this month. Whether it’s a relatively new band, an established and accomplished professional musician, or old friends back with a new slab of wax, these records represent a drop in the bucket of new stuff out there. These aren’t pumpkin lattes by any means and that’s a good thing.
Seratones – POWER (Fat Possum)
From the opening bass line of “Fear,” which kicks off the second record by Shreveport, Louisiana’s Seratones, there is a sense of overriding calm and joy mixed with confident urgency. It’s a strange combination, but you can listen to POWER while hitting the gym or relaxing on a drive home after a stressful day at work. Singer AJ Haynes has a stunning voice, equally at home with an early 60s girl groups (if you’ve ever seen Illeana Douglas’ excellent cinematic homage to 60s female singer/songwriters Grace Of My Heart, you get my drift) or current fuzzy power pop. Title track, “Power” features a, pardon the pun, powerful music video with lyrical content that could activate even the most dormant feminist as it drives the point home with agile musicianship. It is markedly unfair that the Seratones have been compared to Alabama Shakes in the press. Sure, they are both bands from the South fronted by the strong presence of a black woman, but that’s about where the similarities stop. The overall “poppiness” of POWER is somewhat of a departure from the fuzzy rock that permeated Seratones excellent debut, 2016’s Get Gone, but the growth of this nicely developing band is tangible on POWER. Overall, this is a record everyone needs in their collection. Thank me later.
Bernard Fowler – Inside Out (Rhyme & Reason)
Longtime session musician and Rolling Stones backup singer Bernard Fowler is a pro’s pro. He has performed with the Stones for the last 30 years and has collaborated with everyone from Bill Laswell to Alice Cooper to John Lydon. On Inside Out, Fowler covers eight songs by the Rolling Stones in his own unique style while backed by some extremely capable musicians. Mostly spoken word, Inside Out corrals the work of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (as well as Marianne Faithfull who co-wrote “Sister Morphine” with The Glimmer Twins) in an amalgamation of thinking man’s hip hop, jazz, and deconstructed rock and roll in a way that brings new life to some classic tracks. In fact, if you didn’t know some of these songs were covers, you might not at once recognize them. Fowler, perhaps unconsciously, has brought new doorways to the music of his most famous employers and needs to be recognized as a musical force himself. His vision on Inside Out is a fresh take on key elements of the Stones canon and his version of “Undercover Of The Night” is fucking brilliant, reminiscent of Michael Franti (Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy/Spearhead) channeling William S. Burroughs.
Redd Kross – Beyond The Door (Merge)
Any record that begins by covering the theme song to a Peter Sellers movie is pretty damn boss. I love Redd Kross, but to be honest, the album that follows their cover of Henry Mancini’s title track song for The Party (1968) is fairly tame compared to the band’s previous releases and, realistically, probably something only a true devotee of the band like myself will admire. Having said this, Beyond The Door is a fun record and the McDonald brothers (guitarist and lead vocalist Jeff and bassist Steve) are most likely not looking to rope in a ton of new fans with this effort. In fact, after having had the opportunity to speak with both of them over the past few years, it is clear the brothers are scratching a personal itch here and releasing a record that is mainly for them. As songwriters, the McDonalds crank out catchy fuzz pop with the best of them and their live show continues to be something to behold but with a discography full of bubblegum inspired punk/glam masterpieces, Beyond The Door doesn’t add anything particularly new or earth shattering here. Fans of the band will undoubtedly want Beyond The Door in their collection, but if you’re unfamiliar with the band and looking for something that will change your life, dig into their earlier work. Redd Kross opens for Melvins at Crescent Ballroom on November 4. Be there or be square as both bands are something to behold when live in concert.