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

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

CD review - Earl Greyhound, Ancient Futures (2010)

Punk came along to poke at ridiculous, self-indulgent excesses of '70s rock. After glam rock spectacle and cocaine driven ego rock, it was time for a change. And yet, something precious was lost in that simplifying fire. Today's post rock bands reach for that missing intensity, but rarely hits the joyous or exultant ambition that many early '70s bands aspired to.

Earl Greyhound is a throwback to that golden age. Though their music evokes Led Zeppelin and other great classic rock bands, they sound more like a contemporary band of that era finding their own musical path. Their power trio line up leaves plenty of room to show off monster skills while requiring tight playing. Last year, they made my top album and top concert lists. They are on my short list of must-hear bands. Ancient Futures is an EP recorded as part of their sessions for Suspicious Package.

Three songs clocking in at over 21 minutes gives a sense of the scope. Epic grandeur is the only way to describe this EP. Suspicious Package had the two part song, The Eyes of Cassandra, which was closest to this kind of reach. On Ancient Future, Earl Greyhound has taken the time to let songs grow organically, without worrying as much about structure or short attention spans.

Hellhound begins with a laid back jazzy vibe: just a loose vocal and simple keyboard chords. Then, it effortlessly unfolds into a chorus marked by richer, guitar driven groove while the vocals soar. Acoustic guitar, counterpoint backing vocals, and powerful drum work push it forward. The song structure takes on a looser organization than a simple verse-chorus. Each short section flows out of the last, but sparks a sense of unpredictability.

Lady Laser features Kamara Thomas' voice in a mix of heavy and soft. The pounding drum start and grinding guitar verses are fused to a lighter, psychedelic chorus section, which whipsaws expectation before setting up a jazzy keyboard soul bridge. The lyrics are straight out of 1970, too. Maybe a bit too theatrical for a modern band, but perfect here.

Finally, The Fall and Rise of Mu follows the pattern of bands like early King Crimson, Traffic, and Jefferson Airplane. A long introspective beginning takes its time to set the mood. The song lulls you into a receptive state as little elements filter in. When the vocals start the lyrics provide some trippy imagery. But the soft yin always flips to a hard yang as the band throw in some harder edges. Eventually, the song flows through classic progressive rock, Black Sabbath style heavy metal, wild jamming, and more modern sounding hard rock.

Ancient Futures came out in November and is available on their site. I'm already anxious to see what they'll tackle next. Garrett Oliver's fine Brooklyn Brown Ale is a fitting toast for this fine Brooklyn band.

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