E.P. REVIEW: Work Together by Working Flakes

work together cover

Working Flakes are a three-piece indie/alternative rock band based in New York. The band consists of Chris Agar (vocals, guitars and upright bass), Collin Stanley (guitar) and Zach Simao (drums, tambourine). They had all been involved in various music projects but originally came together as members of the group DDWhite. Eventually, Working Flakes were formed from this nucleus. This EP, Work Together, is their first release and was collaboratively composed and engineered by the band as part of their DIY ethic and approach.

The EP consists of five tracks and starts out with the powerful call to arms of Ease Your Mind. Set to a taut 2/4 groove, it brings to mind Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall but with the more ragged, garage rock vibe of The White Stripes. Chris Agar’s distinctive, idiosyncratic vocals are augmented in various places with Arctic Monkeys-style falsetto vocals an octave higher, to good effect.

The lyrics are essentially a clarion call for people to wake up, and where we find the EP’s title: “We must work together, we have all the power, do not fear the haves, it’s the have-nots hour…”. Though this was released in the fall of 2019, the message seems more apposite than ever, especially in light of the American riots against injustice taking place at the time of writing.

Second track Cheap Love is sonically more in keeping with the gritty, glam rock style of The Black Keys, propelled by a memorable bassline and infectious vocal melody. The music fits the subject matter like a glove which comes across as a slightly sardonic depiction of the shallow nature of modern dating: “Tuesday night, swiping right and we match….”. As with every track, the arrangement is well structured with succinct guitar melodies alternating with crunchy chords. There’s also some great tumbling tom tom fills from Zack Simao.

The final anthemic refrain, “You’re a cheap love, not a deep love…” is a pithy summation of Tinder culture which has become the societal norm. A fun, super catchy and dryly humorous piece of ‘rough round the edges’ rock ‘n roll.

Are We Connected?, the third track, is a more serious and contemplative dissection of relationships in this era of technology that has made us more connected in one way yet has isolated us from each other in another sense. The song questions whether this has been beneficial or created an artificial existence lacking in genuine interaction: “Staring at your screen, what does it mean?”.The song’s main refrain hits the nail on the head, “Views are injected, no one respected, are we connected or are we infected?

Musically, it’s set to a loping, funky groove with a slick guitar riff. Agar sings in a lower register than previously, with all kinds of instrumental nuances and details that help to keep the music compelling throughout. The band have an excellent understanding of dynamics and can veer from subtle guitar effects to huge vocal refrains with consummate ease.

Fourth track Thank You is the highlight of the EP for me, personally. It’s a perfect marriage between Gang Of Four-style driving basslines and razor sharp guitars with the laid back, languid cool of The Strokes. The groove has a Stones-esque confident strut though lyrically it’s a little more opaque and difficult to decipher than the previous songs. Lines like these suggest the supposed gratitude of the title hook is meant sarcastically: “Disengaged with fits of rage you explode, drowning together feels like I’m drowning alone…”.

Final song Roll With The Punches consists of just vocals and acoustic guitar (with a little bowed upright bass)and displays more openly the dry sense of humour which has been present under the surface throughout.

From the lyrics to the first verse it soon becomes apparent that this was written with tongue firmly in cheek: “Stabbed in the heart tossed in the gutter, got better treatment from my former mugger who left me stranded picked up by a trucker, she couldn’t have known I was born to suffer.” It’s a light hearted and rather catchy song that rounds off the EP in a highly entertaining fashion, especially the dialogue at the end of the track.

Overall, this is an excellent debut release from a band who’ve emerged with a perfectly honed musical approach, combining a punk rock rawness and spirit with inventiveness and nuance. Similarly, the lyrics balance the serious with the humourous and the result is a very enjoyable set of songs that stand up to repeated listening. I look forward to hearing their debut album.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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E.P. REVIEW: Can’t Go Home by Collin Stanley

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Collin Stanley is a musician, singer, songwriter and producer currently residing in New York City. He was raised in Detroit, Michigan and his earliest musical influences were blues, classic rock and garage rock. Bands and artists such as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, The White Stripes and Stevie Ray Vaughan were formative on the musical style he has today. He collaborates with bass player Chris Agar and drummer/pianist/producer Eric Hoegemeyer. This EP, Can’t Go Home, is the first fruits of their labours together

Opening track The Underground sets out their stall in emphatic fashion. Starting gently with just light guitar and Collin Stanley’s casually captivating vocals, the enigmatic opening lines draw you in: “I’ll take you down to the underground, everything is strange, so profound…it all goes down”.

After the brooding, restrained verse it bursts into a volcanic chorus of raw, razor-edged electric guitars duelling with primal and powerful White Stripes-style drumming. Atop of this Collin delivers a vaulting lead vocal, drenched in cavernous reverb. Musically, you can hear those formative influences but sublimated into a unique style that lies at the midpoint between classic, alternative and garage rock.

There’s a great understanding of quiet/loud dynamics with this song that brought to mind The Pixies and Nirvana, indeed, the arrangement brought to mind the latter’s Heart Shaped Box from In Utero. After the second chorus it enters an extended refrain section which delivers the knockout punch, where we find the EP title, Collin singing “I can’t go home anymore…” with resigned desperation. A superb song, put simply.

Second track Time Future is another song with an unusual but inspired arrangement that works perfectly. It begins with just a ghostly, distorted vocal and offbeat reggae style guitars, the haunting vocal melody bringing to mind Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs.

About a minute in and the music explodes into a chugging Black Keys-esque stomp with shades of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Again, it encapsulates an entertaining fusion of rock styles and the final section is joyously anthemic, which will be a lot of fun to hear live.

The last track I Came For You is brief at just over two minutes but packs a considerable punch. It’s a mid-paced blues rocker full of Led Zep-style riffs played in octaves and delivered with the laid back cool of Queens Of The Stone Age. It features another charismatic vocal performance from Collin Stanley, some excellent bass playing from Chris Agar and blistering energy behind the kit from Eric Hoegemayer.

Overall, this is an excellent trifecta of songs that fuses the genres of blues, classic and garage rock into a potent, hugely enjoyable amalgamation. Collin Stanley is a fine frontman, and, aided by talented musical cohorts, the result a memorable and vital sound that captures the spirit of rock ‘n roll with a healthy dose of modern day angst. Most importantly, with The Underground, they have their first classic song on their hands. I, for one, can’t wait to hear a full album in the future.

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: Reverb by Audiobender

audiobender_cd_cover Audiobender are a three-piece rock band hailing from San Jose, California. They were formed in 2012 by singer/songwriter and guitarist Jared Richard who recruited former Soulorgy bandmates Paul Cingolani (bass) and Jeff Lemas (drums). Their music style is essentially alternative rock, with a healthy dose of blues thrown in, somewhere between Jet and The White Stripes, with Jared Richard’s expressive lead vocals sometimes bringing to mind Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant.

After getting their songs together they have been busy gigging and have garnered a large fanbase very quickly. They have a strong presence on social media and are currently heading for the top of the charts on Reverb Nation. This album, Reverb, is their debut containing ten songs and the first thing that struck me about their sound is that it manages to capture the raw energy and excitement of a live performance, something that often gets lost in the production process.

Opening track Alright With Me is a blistering start, establishing the band’s style that
combines a nicely driven but open guitar sound, clean enough to let the melodic basslines of Paul Cingolani to be heard, which is an advantage of being a three-piece. It also allows the strident and fluid drumming of Jeff Lemas to be fully appreciated, who drives this song forward with some propulsive, whirlwind fills around the kit. Jared Richard creates a nice dynamic by singing in a low croon before launching into a full-throated vocal assault on the chorus, showing impressive range and control. Every good rock band needs a great singer and he fulfils this criterion perfectly.

Second track On and On is another strong song, this one more of a showcase for Jared Richard’s guitar skills, with some gorgeous ascending lead guitar harmonies on the chorus, the bassline adding a further harmony beneath it. After the second chorus there is a well-structured and controlled guitar solo that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, then the harmonies start descending which gives some melodic variation. Sometimes lead guitar work can become about showmanship and lead to self-indulgence, but here the playing always serves the song.

Third song Sweet acts as a nice contrast, showing a more melodic, gentle facet to the band. I enjoyed the lilting major-minor chord progressions and this is another good showcase for Richard’s versatile vocals, equally at home singing the hard rockers and the lighter songs, a gift that Lennon and McCartney both had.

Next track MFH (Here Come The Girl) is most definitely in the former category and perhaps the heaviest track here. It’s a raucous, highly infectious five minutes of blues rock, in the vein of Hendrix’s classic Foxy Lady and 70’s bands like Led Zeppelin, melding it with more modem aspects of rock production, the distorted lead vocals bringing to mind The Black Keys and The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas. The start-stop structure works well dynamically and I loved the long middle section, letting the music grow and breathe.Too many rock bands arrange their songs like pop tracks in a bid to be commercial these days, so it’s refreshing to hear rock that is played without rules.

One In The Hand, fifth track, is back to the lighter style with a clean, mellow but funky guitar sound that is reminiscent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante. Lyrically, it is one of the most serious and contemplative: “I spend my whole life on the edge of a sharpened knife…”. It acts as a nice change in mood and pace before a return to some hard rockin’ with sixth track The Rules. This is gritty and enjoyable rock ‘n roll that once again makes effective use of distorted vocals that give a raw edge and vitality to the sound. The whole song is something The Strokes would be happy to have in their canon, while Keith Moon would have been proud of the ‘whirling dervish’ drumming.

I Wont Write This Song is another track with a melancholy, wistful feel lyrically, expressing regret over behaviour in a relationship, but managing to avoid it sounding clichéd and obvious through the clever conceit of the song title. Most of the lyrics are, in time-honoured tradition for blues and rock, about women and the happiness/pain relationships bring. The chord progression suits the words perfectly, and the solo is understated and exquisitely crafted.

Know What I Mean is one of the more upbeat, poppy tracks on the album with a sing-songy melody on the verse that is extremely catchy, while the chorus is surprisingly jazzy in its chord voicings. Paul Cingolani’s highly melodic, elastic bassline stands out on this song, and the overall different style gives some good variation to proceedings, with a simple but insistent title hook sticking in the mind.

Say Goodnight is the album’s slow-burning epic, starting quietly and gradually building to an epic climax, with a particularly intense and expressive vocal performance from Jared Richard and a lengthy guitar solo that you would imagine being played on the edge of a cliff in the video. It pages the way nicely for the final song Let It Bleed, which is not a cover of the Stones classic, but another of the head-banging rockers that Audiobender do so well, with all three members playing their hearts out. You can imagine them ending their set with this, and strangely, the listener does feel like they’ve just been listening to a live performance, which is testament to the production and the energy of the band.

Overall, this is a consistently well written and performed modern rock album that feels just the right length and makes for a strong debut. Whilst they haven’t yet forged a unique sonic identity, they combine their influences to great effect and make a great noise together, all being very accomplished musicians. This is the kind of band that builds up a huge devoted following through touring and you can see that already starting to happen. I look forward to hearing future albums from them.

 

Alex Faulkner (The Faulkner Review)

Verdict: 8.3 out of 10

 

http://www.reverbnation.com/audiobenderband