(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Friday, March 12, 2010

CD review - Earl Greyhound, Suspicious Package (2010)

I got a taste of Earl Greyhound when they opened for Saul Williams on his Afro-Punk tour last fall. I wanted more...well, now it's here. Suspicious Package (due out April 13) is a rocking wonder of an album.

There are scads of retro touches and familiar sounding bits scattered throughout, but this is no Frankenstein creation. While not a concept album, there's a definite flow, from start to finish. The opening song, The Eyes of Cassandra, is split into two parts and starts with a late '60s jazz organ groove. Then it picks up a Latin beat before evolving into more of a psychedelic, art rock juggernaut. All of this in one cohesive song! Similarly, the last song, Misty Morning, builds from a mellow beginning to a Lenny Kravitz style soul, crashing into a classic jam band crescendo.

As good as those tunes seem, they're not quite the high point of this great album. That honor is split between Oye Vaya, which has gotten some early exposure, and Shotgun. Oye Vaya screams right out of the gate, nailing the target of Led Zeppelin (Immigrant Song) meets Heart (Barracuda). It rocks hard. Matt Whyte and Kamara Thomas' vocals are tightly intertwined. And Ricc Sheridan's drums flail over the top while locking in on the beat.

Shotgun kicks off like old Motorhead before building into more of a progressive rock space. Kamara Thomas pounds the hell out of her bass and brings the right level of vocal intensity to the lyrics:
I am nobody, nobody is who I am
I am a traveler on this land
And nothing, nothing, nothing remains

I am nobody, nobody is who I am
I am a traveler on this land
I am a wanderer on these sands
And I got down on my knees and pulled in my hands
And on the great wings of a great bird
I was carried to a temple, where I heard the word
The lyrics roll out like the tide, escalating every time it comes back to that "I am nobody, nobody is who I am". It's easy to get lost in the flow and just surf through the song.

As I mentioned, there are plenty of familiar teases like the Doobie Brothers' Taking It To The Streets in Black Sea Vacation and Elvis Costello's Shipbuilding in Bill Evans. But it never slides into pastiche. Instead, they blend these influences into the satisfying fullness of Suspicious Package. Pour a bottle of Stone Ruination IPA and raise a salute to serious rock.

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