Who says there’s never a corporate ladder in the world of rock bands?
It’s a well-known bit of rock & roll trivia that Noel Gallagher, the leader of bratty British pop perennials Oasis, began his career in the music business as a roadie for another band. Likewise, Perry Bamonte served a long apprenticeship as a roadie for the Cure before he was promoted to full band member. Although not nearly as famous as either of those bands, Philadelphia’s the Loved Ones are the product of a similar story: vocalist/songwriter Dave House was a crew member for punkers like Kid Dynamite, Sick of It All, and Bouncing Souls before starting his own band.
True to House’s background, the Loved Ones (rounded out by bassist Michael “Spider” Cotterman and drummer Michael Sneeringer) turn out melodic, punk-influenced power pop on this five-song debut. At best, they bring to mind a less heavy metal Foo Fighters or a more heavy-metal Material Issue: too loud to be a mere rock band, and too organized to be pure punk.
Producer Brian McTernan gives The Loved Ones a clean, snappy sound that allows the songs to make the greatest possible impact with the least amount of clutter. That works well on “100K”, which gets the EP off to rockin’ good start. With snarling guitars, surging power chords, a feedback-fuelled breakdown, and several stop-starts, “100K” is pure power pop. Put the top down and crank it up. And leave it cranked for “Chicken”, another classic specimen: chugging verse; explosive, dive-bombing chorus; thrashing drums—all delivered in under three minutes.
After that strong start, The Loved Ones has the ill fortune of getting angsty. “Massive” is dedicated to House’s mother, who died prematurely in 2004. Whatever killed her must have been horrible, leading House to spill out lyrics like, “What’s the use in praying / When you already know the truth?” The music is suitably dark, melodramatic, and minor key. But, as sincere as House obviously is, the song fails to deliver the intended impact; like a lot of what is directly borne of anger, it’s too obvious and even a bit embarrassing.
The acoustic “Drastic” lightens the mood, at least musically, but the sing-song melody is no match for lyrics like, “ while we’re dying of cancer and paying our bills / We just drown in this quagmire of what we’ve been told.” By this time, the easy thrills of those first two tracks are forgotten, and not even another hotrod rocker, “Candy Cane”, can ease the sense of a missed opportunity.
Maybe part of the reason that the more dire songs don’t connect comes down to House’s voice, a generic sort of punk rock rasp. He gets the phrasing and emoting right, but there’s just not enough to distinguish his voice from the hundreds of others that are doing the same thing.
Surely, the perfect place between roadie and lead singer is out there somewhere.