Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Hard Lessons -- B & G Sides Vol. 1

Back in the halcyon winter of 2004, before whatevs.org was overrun by Russian hackers, I wrote a glowing little review of a band that opened for Back in Spades and the Nice Device. Back in Spades didn't last long and last I heard Jackson Smith was touring with mom Patti. I think the Nice Device still exist, but I expect they'll be on hiatus as front woman Alicia tries to help revive the Von Bondies.

But that little band that opened has done alright for themselves... I speak of course of the Hard Lessons. Now of course I would never take credit for their success, having written that early good review... but of course I am the instigator, the emancipator of rock n' roll and I DID come up with all the good ideas in Star Wars. So I got that going for me.

Anyway, fast forward today and you'll find the Hard Lesson going strong and building a steady buzz and following through constant touring. Which of course means that many Detroit fans who've seen the band dozens of times are taking the trio for granted.

I have a feeling that's about to change with the B & G Sides series of singles, the first of which is being released by Quack!Media in conjunction with a Magic Stick show this Friday, November 23.

There will be a total of four singles, available on CD or vinyl. Each single features interlocking art work that forms a "bigger" picture. Similarly each single features a "B" song sung by Augie and a "G" song sung by KoKo... "Boy Side"/"Girl Side." All the songs will also be available as free downloads from their website beginning on November 23.

That's a lot of gimmicks, breaking up an ep or album of material into 4 collectible singles, free downloads, trading lead vocals on each side and a hipster mocking video on the near horizon.

Plus there is whole concept album vibe. Being as the subject of the songs is modern relationships told from male and female perspectives rather than a guitarist leading a revolution against a totalitarian regime OF THE FUTURE -- the whole thing looks to play out more like an amped up-rock-out version of Grease as opposed to 2112, but it is a concept none the less.

In typical fashion, the gimmicks are just wrapping paper for the Hard Lessons music. The first two songs in the series, "See and Be Scene" and "Don't Shake My Tree" are by far the best sounding recordings the band has done to date. They've written great songs in the past, but the team of producer Donny Brown (The Verve Pipe drummer?) and engineering by Tempermill Studio's Dave Feeny (Blanche, engineer on Van De Lear Rose and player of every pedal steel part in Detroit history) and Erik Maluchnik (Holy Fire and the terribly underrated Jarrod Champion Sleeps Till Dusk) have really found a studio sound for the band that at least to my ear breaths life and energy into the songs.

The lyrics are still clever and fun, the poppy harmonies propel each chorus skyward and as you'd expect there more than a passing nod to big '70's style guitars (harmonized riffs, feedback and bluesy chords bent with an inch of their life). But again, these songs have an added depth that some of their previous recordings have lacked. These are not songs that beg the classic excuse, "You really have to hear them live to appreciate it."

The whole point of a recording in general and especially the really the great lost (at least to Americans) tradition of the 45 single isn't so much to merely document, but rather to build something worthy of the relative permanence of vinyl, tape, plastic or binary code. It's a hard lesson to learn1, but one THL appear to have taken to heart.

Rating: 5/5

-gorilla

1See what I did there? With the reference? That's going in the good pile next to "Luke I am your father" and the Death Star.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Aaron said...

That Jarrod Champion record is pretty amazing.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Uncle Grambo said...

Damn, Corin looks foxy as all get out in that picture. But not as foxy as Augie. Natch.

4:34 PM  

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