It's not often that I go ahead and sign up for a band's mailing list when I check out web sites to prepare for a review. But I made an exception in Car 44's case. Maybe it's because I'm starting to develop a small crush of Dahna Rowe. I don't know.
In any case, Car 44 is a band that I would be glad to keep in touch with. I may have to fly out to my native Virginia to catch them live (the band hails from Virginia Beach), but it might be worth it. Ever since I put Platinum Holes, the band's debut disc into my stereo, I've been listening to it constantly.
Rowe happens to be the vocalist and main lyricist for Car 44, and even though I know next to nothing about her except the words she sings through this disc, she seems like someone I'd want to hang out with. I can almost embarrassingly see myself approaching her after a show and gushing, "YOU ROCK!" Rowe's voice had me scrambling for comparisons when I first spun the disc. I kept wanting to draw on Tanya Donnelly, Sarah Bettens of K's Choice, or Julie Ritter and Gretchen Seager of Mary's Danish. But comparisons are a critic's crutch, and Rowe's voice is definitely unique. It slips in and out of female rock power, sultry whispers, and sweet melodies throughout the album.
But focussing my male gaze on Rowe would be a discredit to the rest of the band.
Car 44 is more or less guitarist John Conkle's band, after all, having formed four years ago. However, it was the current line-up of Conkle on guitars, Rob D on bass, and Billy Crawford on drums that gave Car 44 its current musical strength. D's bass and Crawford's drums keep the beats steady, fast, and strong. Conkle's guitar ability is precise, even if it's fairly standard of the alternative rock genre, but as whole compositions each song stands strong. Car 44 isn't a "chick rock" band, and Conkle and D write all the music (except for "Fall 4 Me" where Crawford lends a hand), and Conkle lends a hand on lyrics for a few tracks as well. Between the songwriting talents of Conkle and D and the lyrics/vocals of Dahna Rowe, Car 44 is a solid musical unit.
Standout tracks include the opener, "Baby Its Me," with its flirtatious lines like, "So lay down with me / Say something other than always / Because always is infinity / And you don't see us together that long / And I may not be the right one for you / But I am right now." The ballad "John Thomas Lover"'s smooth melodies belie the theme of a broken woman looking for a man to save her. My favorite song has to be "Rock Star," but that may have something to do with my affinity for exposed metanarratives. The song hinges on Rowe's assertion that she can forgive the loss of mythical icons like the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, but sahe can't let go of her belief in rock stars. Grand irony? No, but amusing enough for me. "Lock Stock and Barrel" is a full fledged sexy rock song, while "20" is one of the angriest song about peace I've ever heard.
Also of note about Platinum Holes is that the album was produced by ex-Rollins Band guitarist, Chris Haskett and mixed by Rollins Band affiliate, Theo Van Rock. This gives the album the real feel of polish that an indie band can only pray for. Haskett does a good job bringing out the strengths of each musician, and not once does the disc seem to stray into Rollins territory.
Only one thing about this album struck me as silly. While Car 44 rocked and Rowe shouted out, "You'll fall for me!" I had to laugh because I already had.