If you've heard the early buzz surrounding Silvertide, you've probably heard that they sound like a combination of the Black Crowes and AC/DC. You may also have heard that lead guitarist Nick Perri can shred the ol' axe like a young, virile, omnipotent rock deity. Or, if you've done some reading, maybe you know that Silvertide opened for Aerosmith (after a mere six months as a group) and are positioned to be the next great American rock act, the band that finally brings self-destructive hedonism and self-indulgent riffing back into vogue. This is a huge task for any band, much less five guys who were born around the time Duran Duran were terrorizing the charts. Still, on their debut album Show and Tell, Silvertide show that the hype is at least partially grounded in truth.
The album opens with "I Ain't Coming Home", and it's clear why the band chose this song as the leadoff. Raw and raucous, it announces Silvertide's modus operandi: rock loud. That is, really loud. Everything about this song is grandiose -- from Kevin Frank's menacing tom banging to Mark Melchiorre, Jr.'s stomp-inducing chord progressions. Immediately, it's obvious why Silvertide have been compared to so many other bands. Nick Perri's solos are indeed reminiscent of Angus Young's, though they never sound like mere imitations. What's more, lead singer Walt Lafty sounds uncannily like Chris Robinson. His voice is full of nasty blue-eyed soul, strutting and tearing and shuffling at will. His phrasing also displays a cocksure aplomb mastered by only a few legends: Jagger, Petty, and the aforementioned Robinson. Like these canonized singers, Lafty knows that delivering a lyric is as important as the actual words.
Other songs on Show and Tell reference other figures or aspects of rock's past. "To See Where I Hide" begins with Hendrix-inspired, backwards-sounding guitar (á la "Foxy Lady") before settling into a lean, agile riff. The song also shows Silvertide's ability to blend chaos with professional restraint: as Perri frenetically plays fills and solos, the rhythm section maintains a solid footing while keeping pace. "California Rain", on the other hand, has more in common with '80s pop metal than classic rock. Beginning with a "1, 2, 3" count, the song is about a trip to that most metal of places -- Los Angeles. "Wandering down the Sunset Strip in the morning / 6 a.m., is that a rainbow that I see?" Lafty sings, while the band provides a funky backdrop marked by catchy riffing and cowbell. Yes, this has all been done before, but Silvertide make you wonder why strutting one's musical chops ever fell out of favor.
Indeed, what's most impressive about Silvertide is their sense of history. Perri cites influences ranging from AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and Aerosmith to Albert King, Elmore James, and T-Bone Walker. While his playing leans more to the hard rock/metal side, the group's overall sound is inspired by these legends. Many new groups have no sense of rock history, which limits their musical vocabulary to a few standard barre chords and distortion. Silvertide, conversely, have a broad range of musical influences to refer to, and it's evident throughout the album.
Yet, if there's one huge shortcoming onShow and Tell, it's the lyrics. "Devil's Daughter" unintentionally spoofs hard rock with its cliché references to . . . well, the devil's daughter. In a rather unfortunate instance of lyrical silliness, Lafty sings, "I went to bed with an angel / At least that's what she said / But as she tore off her dress / Lord, I must confess / I got the devil's daughter in my bed". Though this song will provide the soundtrack to innumerable table dances, original it is not. Guitars, girls, and the lord of evil? That's just a bit too much rock, guys. "S.F.C.", which stands for "So F-ing Crazy", is another lyrical dud. "You're stuck in your head", Lafty repeatedly yells, before declaring, "They should lock you up in a padded room / You're so f-ing crazy". Later in the song, he repeats, "The full moon's out tonight". Here again, the lyrics serve as satire by reaffirming the stereotype of hard rock fans as being infantile, unsophisticated, and obsessed with "disturbing" themes.
Still, if Silvertide can check their Spinal Tap moments by avoiding metal clichés, they have a brilliant career before them. Rarely do groups sound so impassioned, confident, and developed on a debut. Perhaps the best way to describe Show and Tell is to say that it sounds like the Saturday night before a Sunday morning hangover. If the goal of music is to offer catharsis -- or at least escape -- what more could you want?