Another Boston Bar Band Makes Good
I don’t know. I’ve had this disc for a while now and listened to it on and off for the past few weeks and I just can’t get excited about it. At first I thought the Gladstones were all right. Pretty catchy, had a few hooks that made me want to hear a bit more, you know. But now, I have come to the conclusion that they’re simply non-descript. A band that could have come out of any old town with a group of songs that ultimately fail to leave any form of solid impression. Oh they’re “good”, all right but using that word here is like admitting that the Carpenters were “good” at what they did.
Comprised of Kevin Condon and Greg Kerwood on guitar and vocals, Ed Lyons on lead guitar, John Sakos on Drums, and Mike Scotti on bass, the Gladstones have created a sound here that seems like a hybrid of power pop and alt-country but it leans a little more to the sappy side of the scale for either side. The opening track “Country Girl” admittedly won me over right off the bat with its guitar hooks and super smooth vocal harmonies, but there doesn’t seem to be another song in the remaining 13 tracks here that hits the same high mark. It all just suddenly dips into a zone of corniness that makes the disc hard to take seriously.
The second song “Catch Me If You Can” is guilty of being heavy handed with its attempts at saying something “important”. In the first verse we are made to look at a “psychopath on the loose who claimed to be the bastard son of the Son of Sam.” Ooh. Chilling. Then in the next verse it’s another camera crew on live TV focusing in on a mother and her baby trapped on the top of a burning building. No thank you. More often than not, topical tunes like these soon turn pretentious is the hands of bands who should stick to singing love songs. Such is the case with the Gladstones.
“All Things Beautiful” sounds like it was tailor made for the section of the Nashville crowd who still enjoy Billy Ray Cyrus. Dig if you will such lines as “Love’s got a rhythm that never breaks / Like the touch of a woman and the love that she makes.” What? You’re comparing love to love? Genius, I tell you! But wait, there’s more! “In the heart of the city, in the heat of the night / Isn’t it a pity it can’t last all night?” Goddamn! You just rhymed “night” with “night”! Boy howdy, that’s some good writin’. And let’s not forget the unforgettable chorus of “All things beautiful disappear in the light, so are you beautiful tonight?” Bad. Just plan bad. It reminds me of the blandness of Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight”, but even that is better than this.
The Gladstones hurt me and I’m not happy. They got in another punch with such trifle as “Kathleen” which coos “If I fall, if I fall for you, would you fall? / Would you fall for me too, my queen? / If I stall, if I stall ‘til tomorrow, would you bawl? / Would you show signs of sorrow, Kathleen?” My god. If this is the best these boys can do in the lyrics department then please take their No. 2 pencils away immediately. I can’t imagine anyone not laughing after hearing these lines. Sure, they try to rock it up with some raging chords, but this is just playground semantics. No one’s fooled into thinking the Gladstones can rock with songs like these.
I could go on for a week about how silly this disc is, but I’ll spare you the news. Just trust me when I tell you that other songs here like “She’s Just a Girl” and “How Do You Like Me Now” suffer the same pitfalls that the other songs ventured into. The quality (or lack of) these songs only makes me take more notice of how Headlines and Pictures is a self-released item. It’s obviously too damned hard to sell to any labels, let alone get anyone to listen to the thing for more than five minutes without seeing them break out in tears or laughter. Harsh? Yes, but when it comes to albums like this that just wallow in shallow lyrics and capable but elementary music, why try to find the silver lining? There is none here. Especially when there’s much better bands from Boston such as Sunshine Boy. But that’s a great band and another story entirely.
// Notes from the Road
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