The calendar, and the weather, says it’s still summer. So here’s the third installment of my roundup of some of the finest tuneage to find its way to my digital desk over the past few months. This time, the focus is on the more rocking end of the spectrum.
Mono In Stereo, Long For Yesterday: Back in the summer of 1984, I combed the traffic-clogged streets of Los Angeles working as a car messenger. College radio was my constant companion. The Minutemen, Husker Du and The Replacements ruled the airwaves, and brought order to those mean streets.
Those days have long since left the rear-view mirror. However, Mono In Stereo, a four-piece band out of Rockford, Illinois, has managed to capture the Spirit of ’84, and has sprinkled it brilliantly over twelve quite fine tunes that run the gamut from blistering punk rock assaults, to pounding anthems that shout their way out of the speakers, to mid-tempo reflections on the past, the present and the future, to Americana-tinged Power Pop, and more. The band calls its approach “Midwest Punk,” and cites its influences as ranging from “Springsteen to Mould, Earle to Costello.” It’s an apt description.
The band lays its cards on the table in the opening track, the rousing “Late Night Confessor” which tips a hat to The Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer,” before veering off in its own direction. The pounding title track will have you yelling out its chorus in no time. “What We Sang” is a paean to doing what you love, knowing that others out there certainly feel the same way:
The mid-tempo, “Woke Up In Haight,” has the band showing off a more expansive sound aided, in part, by some sneaky piano supplied by the seemingly ubiquitous Kris “Fingers” Rogers. “Bakersfield” is an eminently catchy Power Pop romp with a country backbone. The closing track, “Another Man’s Time,” is a quiet rumination on crime, punishment, family and mistaken identity:
Long For Yesterday is overflowing with hook-filled, guitar-based rock ‘n’ roll that knows no real boundaries. That’s how the best did it back in ’84, and that’s how Mono In Stereo’s influences do it as well. You can get this timeless music via Bandcamp. You will be glad you did.
Travel Lanes, Let’s Begin To Start Again: This four-piece band out of Philadelphia also digs deep into the history of American rock ‘n’ roll, spiking its catchy tunes with liberal doses of R&B swagger, Americana and seeming bar band sloppiness. Travel Lanes, however, is no amateur act. Accomplished playing is instead the order of the day, lifting Let’s Begin toward the head of the class.
Low, crunching guitars and Frank Brown’s menacing vocals let the listener know immediately that the field trip at issue in the opening track, “Class Trip,” might not be the kind of happy event normally associated with elementary school. The next track, “In The World,” lightens the festivities considerably, with its memories of a “summer so sublime.” “Little Out Of Love” sports a mellow, melodic vibe with 70s’s country undertones. “100th I Told You So” is melodic rockin’ pop at its finest. It would climb the charts in alternate universe:
The band returns to darker themes on a couple of slower, largely acoustic Americana tracks,”The Year” — the one where “everything fell apart”– and on the “Death,” both of which are standouts. Hope is not entirely lost, however, as the band quickly serves up the sweet, upbeat “Cream Soda.”
If there are any bum notes, or boring filler, anywhere on Let’s Begin To Start Again, these ears were unable to detect them. Get this highly recommended longplayer from the good folks at Kool Kat Musik.