Alva Star: Alligators in the Lobby


By Jason Thompson

"But these guys are from that famous rock 'n' roll city, y'know"

OK kids, it’s time to play some rock and roll free association. Now I’m going to lay the name of a city upon you and you tell me which bands or artists come to mind first. The name of the city is Minneapolis. What? No! St. Paul is not a famous band! Where’ve you been? Dammit, now gimme that lousy copy of Celebrity once and for all and stop your giggling! I’m trying to discuss some serious music here. Y’know, back when I was your age the girls still went nuts for Prince. You could have at least listed him. Or Hüsker Dü, or the Replacements, or any number of other fine acts. Yeesh. What are they teaching you on that MTV these days?

Anyway, I have this new album here by another Minneapolis band called Alva Star. They’ve named it Alligators in the Lobby and all I can say is this one’s a winner. Not every track, mind you. There are a couple of spots that don’t necessarily work as well as others but, overall, this album is packed full with good power-pop hooks that yours truly loves so much. You should know that Alva Star is fronted by none other than John Hermanson. Now, from what I understand, this band enjoys talking about its present work as Alva Star, so I’ll let you do some homework tonight and discover all the past work Hermanson and the rest of the group have done. Rounding out the band is drummer Peter Anderson, bassist Brain Roessler, and guitarist Darren Jackson.

Now about that music that I was speaking of earlier. Alligators in the Lobby has quite a few gems here that would make any band and/or radio proud. Things kick off swimmingly with the lovely “Adore” in which Hermanson’s vocals and acoustic guitar sing and play the same notes together before kicking into that Top-40-sounding chorus that should have anyone enjoying this disc right off the bat. He does that ginchy falsetto thing at all the right moments that puts the song over from being merely catchy to being one of those damned songs that they’d play all over the place until you got sick of it.

“Falling” features more guitar/vocal interplay and falsettos that I just can’t get enough of. AM I selling you on this yet? Dig those harmonies, dammit! Hey! I’m telling you if you don’t put that ‘N Sync down now, I’m calling the health department and insisting that they clean your ears. Now where was I? Ah yes, the magnificent “Unhappily Yours”. Lovely little breakup tune with super-fuzzy guitars and all those nice interlocking song parts (you know, verse, bridge, chorus, some mixture thereof) that make this song the SECOND SINGLE of the album. In my view, anyway. Hell, for all I know, it could be the first single.

Now for a pair of songs that I’m kind of “ehhhh” on. Listen up! First of all there’s “Thing for Me” which I feel sounds like a Rembrandts leftover. And you know what the Rembrandts are responsible for. What is it? Someone tell me? No! It’s not the theme to the new Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen series! Gah! I’ll let you look that one up tonight as well. Also, I feel that this tune rushes itself a bit too much. A little too much happening on the energy meter here. Then there’s “Beautiful”, where the band takes it down a notch and lets you youngsters slow-dance. Well, I suppose the problem here is that it sounds like a lot of faceless slow tunes that any number of smarmies on VH1 would be doling out. Of course, that could mean SINGLE NUMBER THREE for Alva Star.

However, I do love “74”. It’s a song about reminiscing about being a kid, and having been a little kid around that time myself, it probably means a little more to me than others. I don’t know. But it’s a great quiet song that might just be the best thing here for all of its simplicity and thoughtfulness. And from there, it’s right back into the chewy pop-rock of “Victorian”, which reminds me a bit of Cockeyed Ghost. Yes, I’m aware that some of you don’t know who that is as I see the confusion wash over your little faces. It’s OK. You’ll be all right.

You know, I really like the song “Revelation” as well. Lots of great riffs and vocals. A giant, thick sound of thoroughbred rock. Which reminds me that if you mentioned that term back in the ‘80s or so, most people would associate REO Speedwagon with it. Thank God for changing times. Or maybe not. Anyway, closing out Alligators in the Lobby are the brooding “Alva Star” (from a Tennessee Williams play; more homework for you) and the quiet “Girlfriend”. These two are decent enough, but not nearly as great as “74” when it comes to the quieter tunes.

So what have we leaned today kids? That’s right. Alva Star good, ‘N Sync . . . no doubt selling millions more CDs and hopefully wearing the teen scene out once and for all. You know they can’t sustain it beyond this one. You do know that right? Those boys are all going to become corrupted and cause the band to break up. Where’s Bob Dylan when you need him? He introduced the Beatles to pot, you know. Of course, the Beatles went on to create the greatest rock music of all time. Still, ‘N Sync getting high might be amusing. Then again, all you kids would probably start up as well, and that could lead to a real problem. Namely hordes of girls giggling and screaming uncontrollably then giggling and screaming even more. Mmm. So like I said, forget Pop and enjoy Alligators in the Lobby. In the end, it will be much better for you, I promise.

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