Waltham: Waltham

Jason MacNeil

Beantown band makes the best of a great situation, wearing its influences proudly while crafting ear candy nuggets a la the Knack and Springfield in the vein of late K-Tel compilations.



Label: Rykodisc
US Release Date: 2005-07-19
UK Release Date: 2005-09-12
Amazon affiliate

When a band compares itself to Rick Springfield of all people, well it means that it either has a sense of humor or a lot of intestinal fortitude. For Boston group Waltham, it also seems to know that, well, it sounds a lot like the "Jessie's Girl" singer. The Boston quintet, who has taken its name from its hometown on the outskirts of Beantown, is fronted by Frank Pino but this is a band in every sense of the word. The leadoff track is a catchy and well-crafted number entitled "Cheryl (Come and Take a Ride)" which could fit perfectly on a mix tape of Cheap Trick, Joe Jackson, the Knack, and XTC circa "Making Plans for Nigel". It has all that late '70s and early '80s feel with the hook-riddled guitars from the tandem of Tony Monaco and Craig Allen and a drum-driven chorus by Mikey Rorick, who you can envision dressed to the nines a la Blondie's Clem Burke. Add to that the fact it's not too slick or over-produced and you have a very strong opener.

Ditto for "So Lonely" with more of the same, although this one has a definite summer driving feeling that resembles Weezer without the thick slabs of riffs, just a great series of smart, head-bobbing pop chops that you feel the ageless youthful need to crank the volume for, if only for a few seconds. Perhaps the finest thing about the track is its momentum, opting to omit the bridge so the verses keep the energy up. "Joanne" is tamer but still has some bite to its power pop bark that might make a few want to start jumping on the spot. Waltham might have grown up on these early '80s rock songs and have listened to nothing but since then, especially considering the mid-tempo pop nugget "Call Me Back" with its infectious and contagious chorus, some simple but solid guitar work, and a tight rhythm section. At this point in the album they're oddly enough four for four.

And now make that five for five with the rock-oriented "You Gotta Let Me In" which could be mistaken for another nugget by the Canadian bands Odds circa Neopolitan. Sweet yet not too sugar-coated, Waltham has tapped into something that is a rarity these days, taking all the great traits of bands before but giving them a fresh perspective. The harmonies are also another asset that never grows old or tired. The lone knock on the tune is the rather bland bridge featuring a tired guitar solo, albeit a brief one that isn't too painful. The lone song that comes off as forced is the tightly pressed pop of "Be With Me" that relies more on a synth-like sound that resembles a rocking, rollicking version of the Cars. "Don't Say It's Too Late" fares better with a winding, weaving guitar pattern and the delayed harmonies give it a different spin than the previous songs. The chorus is still solid but they test the waters in the verses, down-shifting the tempo before picking it up again.

It's rare that an album like this has yet to hit a huge sonic pothole, but Waltham avoids them at all costs on the mid-tempo mastery of "Back to You", evoking images of thin black leather ties and well-dressed bands like Blondie and the Romantics. "Nicole" is that pothole though, with a bland approach that seems to downplay the band's strengths, opting for a slower mid-tempo kind of sludge whose chorus doesn't compensate much for it. It seamlessly goes into "Hopeless", another grin-inducing tune that takes a while to get off the ground, but it is well worth the wait with the drumming propelling the song forward. Waltham hits the listener over the head, producing one stellar tune after another that has no padding or production values tainting it.

A 45-minute DVD is also included, but you'll be hard pressed to get around to it after listening to the album again and again and again and...


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.