Power-pop brilliance. The Cars excelled with smoldering, dark “Moving in Stereo”- type songs, and with killer chorus, blueprint-for-New Wave pop candy. I love that this is live, and really, really good, in a not-so-perfect way. Harmonies, the late Benjamin Orr on bass reminding that Ric Ocasek wasn’t he only lead singer, and the great eight-bar solos from Elliott Easton on the guitar. The Cars were best loved on record, and I have never talked to anyone who loved their shows in the 80’s. But back in the late 1970’s, after the debut album, they were still nicely raw.
Power-pop brilliance. The Cars excelled with smoldering, dark “Moving in Stereo”- type songs, and with killer chorus, blueprint-for-New Wave pop candy. I love that this is live, and really, really good, in a not-so-perfect way. Harmonies. The late Benjamin Orr on bass reminding that Ric Ocasek wasn’t he only lead singer. Great 8-bar solo’s from Elliott Easton on the guitar. The Cars were best loved on record, and I have never talked to anyone who loved their shows in the 80’s. But back in the late 1970’s, after the debut album, they were still nicely raw.
About halfway into his album Other Side, the debut effort from Indiana singer/songwriter and guitarist Pete Calacci, there’s a song called “Headed for the Stars.”
The cut is a big, fat, radio-friendly and familiar-sounding original piece of rock and roll – – effectively channeling a Tom Sholz-like guitar and the sound of late ’70s-era Boston. Who would have guessed this sonic homage to a nearly 40-year-old self-recorded iconic rock album would come out of Indiana?
Other Side‘s soundscape is both a product of how Calacci – – a carpenter who works at the BP Refinery in Whiting during the day – – recorded the album and played a lengthy musical stint in an Indianapolis cover band. This solo work was created in his apartment, and he played all the instruments – – other than a couple background vocals and a keyboard – – and mixed it himself.
Far from a lo-fi, sounds-like-he-used-a-boombox effort, the record is clean and loud and full of hooks and riffs that surface by surprise.
Calacci spent his early twenties living on the Southside of Indy, playing in a band called Stage One at clubs like The Backstage, Bentley’s and The Vogue, so he came by his ’70s and ’80s influences honestly.
The Other Side is an album whose music hits harder than the lyrics, and Calacci uses his guitar to give the heart of the record a loud, electric, amped-up sound that never really goes away.
The opening “Cold Hearted Woman” rocks like The Cars and Matthew Sweet – – a power pop confection that enters into Tom Petty‘s neighborhood. But the record never strays far from its essence – – a full-on, “let’s-rock” guitar album.
Calacci’s voice sits just atop the guitar on most songs, aching and arching just enough to allow genuine and welcome cracks as he both reaches during the rockers and guides the ballads. An acoustic guitar and his own harmony (and double-tracked) vocals give the punchy electric guitar a pairing to nicely enable a marriage of power chords with ragged vocal sweetness.
“Secret” has an underlying gentleness swathed in a pair of pop/rock dueling guitars.
“Fear” echoes a soaring “Behind Blue Eyes” – era The Who.
Calacci’s acoustic duo bandmate Kelly Skaggs sings on “Carpe Diem” and “Want Me Too.”
This is an album that demands its loudness. Think about driving down the road in an old Buick Skylark with the cassette player turned up as loud as the damn Sparkomatic would go. That’s the sound of this album, guided by Calacci’s electric guitar playing, and his ability to create one of the fullest, play-it-loud rock albums of the new year – – by himself.
Upon bestowing the “Best New Band” award in 2010 to Gentleman Hall, the Boston Phoenix wrote that “These songs sizzle and pop with resuscitated beats, bass lines and laser-booty synths that argue the last 20 years should be stricken from the record.”
The band that came back to Indianapolis for the WZPL Jingle Jam with Matt Nathenson and Christina Perri on December 3 at the Egyptian Room, is touring behind their new record When We All Disappear, and effectively mixing retro grooves with pop radio friendly production. Sort of like OK Go, without all the stunt videos.
Meeting at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, the gang of synth-pop rockers has crafted tunes that recall the ’80s – maybe a little Controversy-era Prince-and thump with an electronic backbeat that melds club-happy bottom end with a familiar grooves. Nuevo Duran Duran? Cars for the newbies? Some hidden Hall and Oates influence from their last big record (Big Bam Boom)? All of that.
I wanted to know more about the band, so I talked with singer/guitarist Gavin McDevitt, who had flute player Seth Hachen (from Indiana, by the way) at his side, helping with the answers.
ROB: There’s distinct ’80s flavor to what you do. Talk about where your sound comes from.
Gavin: We were never as big into the ’80s musically as we are into the ’80s as far as gear and instrumentation. A lot of our sound comes from a vintage analog synthesizer called the Juno 106 which was most prevalent in the 80s. But we try to keep as modern of an approach as possible!
ROB: Any influences from your city that you hear in your music. I hear the Cars…
G: We are a Boston band with deep roots in the Midwest. We believe all the great music being made in Boston creates strong vibrations and energy that go directly into our music. The current Boston music scene is amazing. We feel like this scene is something similar to the Seattle grunge scene in the ’90s. Bands are very supportive of each other, but are writing very unique music that is very now.
ROB: What has been the track of your career? Openers? Clubs? Writing more than playing? What has worked for you?
G: We definitely weigh all as equal. As many irons in the fire as possible, man! Although we do really believe a band will be remembered 100 years from now for one thing… The song. We write a lot. LOT.
ROB: You’ve played with some long-active bands and at some larger venues. Any moments that have seemed like a nice turning point for your progress?
G: It seems like in today’s day and age, it’s simply all about making real fans one at a time. The momentum has been building but there has been no “break,” if that makes sense. A lot of exposure may have given you a big record deal in the past, but today we just try to make fans and not be forgotten.
ROB: Ever been to Indianapolis?
G: Indianapolis is one of our fondest memories as a band. We opened for Muse at the Verizon Center. This was probably the most fans we’ve made at one show. Sold out of CDs and T’s. And Muse put on one of the best shows we’ve seen in a long time.
ROB: Anyone in the band have Midwest roots?
G: We wear our [Midwestern influence] with pride. Two of us are from Cleveland, one from Minneapolis, one (Seth) is a South Bender, not too far from you.
ROB: Anything I missed that you want to add? Shameless plugs or smart-ass remarks?
G: Big shout out to Boston’s beloved model @LoVeSeXnGIA. She is a taste maker in the city and we are lucky to be shooting our music video for the single “Gravity Will Break Our Bones” with her in a key role.
The new album from reunited 80’s rockers The Cars can be heard here ahead of it’s release later this month. Very close to their classic sound; a guiilty pleasure.
Not an album of the year candidate, but makes for a nostalgic listen for those who remember the band’s first three albums. “Too Late” is a poppy keeper, “Keep on Knocking” could have made it onto Heartbeat City and “Sad Song” is the old sound, ripped off as only they can be allowed to do.