Champale: Simple Days / The Exit: Sing Four Favorites


By Jason Thompson

The Exit
Sing Four Favorites
by Jason Thompson
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Two for the Show

It’s always nice to hear good music. That’s a goofy statement, but to a music addict like myself, it holds truer than most other statements. It’s even nicer to hear good music when you have to listen to a lot of average to poor music as a rock critic does. Those of you who are only on the listening side of the fence have no idea how many things get released that would have just been better off left in some shoebox somewhere. So it pleases me to be able to bring to you two new releases that I think everyone should add to their collection.

First up is The Exit and their four song EP Sing Four Favorites. This New York trio plays spare and driving tunes that one could slot into the ska, punk, pop punk, rock, dub, reggae, or whatever other slot you may care to think of when listening to their music. But really it’s none of those things as well. Lead singer Benjamin Brewer says, “We don’t want to sound like anyone else.” Well they don’t, but they do.

What The Exit reminds me of first and foremost is Joe Jackson circa Look Sharp! and I’m The Man minus the piano. And I mean this as a great compliment to the band, as those two albums are a pair of my all time favorites. I always thought that Jackson should have stuck to his original style instead of wandering about for years trying to shake off his great pop sensibilities. But here The Exit churns out four sweet songs that are mainly driven by Jeff DaRosa’s melodic bass riffs and Aren Gunnar’s rhythmic drum patterns. Brewer’s own guitar lines add an extra bite of melody to the atmosphere, making a terrific tight and solid sound.

“Do You Think It’s Alright?”, “The Luckiest Man”, “Susan”, and “Easy Money” are all great songs with no dull moments, bum notes, or moments of tedium. That may be partly thanks to the their short lengths, but I think it’s all due to the fact that these guys just really know what they’re doing and have a good time at doing it. So strap on the skinny ties once again, as Sing Four Favorites is one of the best EPs released this year.

On the full-length album side of the spectrum is Champale and their impeccable Simple Days disc. These guys have gotten press from both The New Yorker and the New York Press as well as CMJ Online. Not bad for an underdog. I specifically requested this disc because the group is on the Pitch-a-Tent label, once home to the great Camper Van Beethoven. I figured that Champale should at least be half as good. Well, frankly they’re excellent.

The band features a whopping eight members, including Luna drummer Lee Wall, ex-44 member Mark Rozzo, Pizzicato Five tour member Erin Elstner on vibes, and second drummer Ira Elliot from Nada Surf. What the band creates here is nothing short of visionary, with Rozzo’s songs creating a warm blanket of musical tranquility and rock refinery. This tastiness is probably best displayed on the album’s second track “Motel California” which features superb melodicism and astute band interplay.

Other highlights include “Hard to Be Easy”, “Paducah”, the surreal “Black Telephone”, and the perfect “‘68 Comeback.” On these tunes, Champale produces sounds that are seemingly West Coast one moment, then decidedly East Coast the next making for one lovely mix that never fails to miss its mark. They’re not above experimenting either, as their sound veers from catchy pop to more avant garde terrain all within a matter of a few measures. But this isn’t the kind of boring weirdness that bands like Beans employ. Instead, it is a beautiful sound that captures the essence of a long summer’s day as the sun slides down the sky to meet the horizon. Laid back and effortless, Champale and Simple Days are simply stunning.

So there you go. Two discs that you should rush out and buy right now. Take it from me, the guy who always warns you about some of the flimsiest rock and pop out there today. This is the good stuff through and through. And if you don’t take my word for it, take it from the fans and critics who also already know how great these two groups are. It doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion, but in these instances I believe I’m quite right. Of course, I also walked through Bedford Stuy alone and drove my motorcycle in the rain. But that’s another story.

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