Hugo’s Voyage, Inception (Frontiers Music)
No matter how popular they become, bands that start out as cover bands — i.e., bands that play other bands’ music — are, in general, at a hopeless disadvantage when they decide to make their own music. This is a tribute band whose specialty is playing nothing but Journey songs, which is as good an excuse as any to remind readers that I was going to be the Dave in the local Van Halen tribute band Diver Down, but the guitarist wanted me to stop sounding like Album Quality Dave and just be Lousy Live Version Dave, so it never happened. Matter of fact, if anyone knows whatever happened to New Hampshire’s favorite Pat Benatar tribute singer, Gail Savage, I’d be really curious to know about it; I asked around but apparently no one knows. Anyhow, if you like Journey, this album sounds exactly like the current version of that band, which, ironically replaced their original singer with a dude whom the band saw doing Journey covers on YouTube. Funny how things work out, isn’t it? No new ground broken at all here, of course, but the songs are, you know, just fine. A-
Rick Bogart, What A Wonderful World (Arabesque Records)
Glad to have been made aware of this February release just now; it’s up for a Grammy, not that I have any say in such things. It’s timely, regardless; no holiday albums have shown up in my mailbox this year as of yet, but this one would definitely work if you’re just trying to get in a holly-jolly mood. If you never would have guessed, this is a collection of Louis Armstrong classics led by rendered through a light, tinkly, Champagne-tinted lens, with a dual-edged nod toward modern New York City club-jazz and mid-sized New Orleans combos, although the former wins out by a mile in my view; it’d be well-placed backgrounding a wedding reception, holiday party or whatever. All the great tunes are here, from “Hello Dolly” to the title track to “A Kiss To Build A Dream On”; if you’ve ever owned a disk of Satchmo tunes, this will all be familiar territory. “Way Down Yonder In New Orleans” is a new one on me, not that I’m an Armstrong expert; I’m used to the Al Jolson version but this does the trick nicely (if politely) enough.
• Yay, the next crop of rock ‘n’ roll CDs comes out on Oct. 27, which is this year’s opening day for Halloween! As everyone knows, Halloween is the real start to the holiday season, which is backward, because Halloween should come after New Year’s Day, the worst of all the holidays unless you have someone brand new and special to watch the ball drop with. For everyone else, New Year’s is the most miserable time of the year, with all its pointlessness and beginner-level beer-chugging, so the best way to walk off the whole experience would be if Halloween came afterward, so that there’d be Dracula movies and snack-sized Reese’s Cups and skeletons around to help us forget the real-life horrors of the previous year! But no, Halloween is here, and there will be albums, I haven’t even checked the list yet, I’ll bet there’s a Christmas album in there from someone like Skee-Lo or Coldplay or someone else whose career is way past its sell-by date, let’s go have a look! Hm, nope, no holiday collections, but there it is, bazinga, a new album from everyone’s favorite acid-dropping Australians, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, called The Silver Cord! It is psychedelic and trippy like always, what else were you expecting?
• Let’s see here, OK, History Books is the sixth studio album from New Jersey rockers The Gaslight Anthem, whose recent reformation after a seven-year hiatus only happened because one of the members was cajoled into it by none other than Bruce Springsteen, who, as it happens, guests on the video for the album’s title track. What this tells us is that Bruuuce is the gatekeeper to the entire New Jersey rock scene, but let’s leave it all be, because the song isn’t bad at all. It’s a loping affair that combines Goo Goo Dolls and Amos Lee; it’s OK if you like good songs, which many people don’t these days, of course.
• So, 1989 (Taylor’s Version) is the newest album from registered 4channer Taylor Swift, and her second this year. It’s simply a re-recording of her 2014 album, which she can get away with because only jerks really hate her, because jelly much? Luckily my attitude toward that corporate-manufactured diva is similar to the one Tommy Lee Jones exhibited in The Fugitive when Harrison Ford had him trapped in the sewer and was trying to convince him he didn’t commit any crimes, like, when some internet person tries to tell me that Taylor Swift will save democracy or bring balance to the universe or whatnot, I just hold my hands up in surrender and say, “I don’t care.” But that’s not to say that she’s a bad artist or doesn’t have great taste in future ex-boyfriends; if you have a 9-year-old daughter you’ll simply have to go buy this new CD of needlessly re-rubbed songs and play it in the car until you’re driven to rendering it useless by scratching the disk with your car key and telling your Precious Princess that your Amex is maxed out and you can’t afford another copy. Just trying to help.
• We’ll end with indie darlings The Mountain Goats, because even I have to admit they’re awesome, so I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that their new LP, Jenny from Thebes, will contain a song that I can stomach! Fans of this alt-rock outfit know that the original lineup consisted of only one person, frontman John Darnielle, until he started hiring all sorts of people to contribute to his albums, playing banjos and cellos and violins, and now Mountain Goats is sort of settled on a quartet setup. This record is said to be a rock opera, so I am already nervous that it will suck, but I shall nevertheless go see what the deal is with the new single, “Clean Slate.” Right, right, it’s Ben Folds-ish, poppy, danceable, the coda sounds like a cross between Springsteen and Calexico.
If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).