Yesterday and today were big for us, as features and reviews of the new record have begun to pop up in the local music press as well as blog-land.
First, the Houston Press previewed our two shows tomorrow with some kind words.
Next was a golden review from Jeremy Hart of Space City Rock:
It’s about damn time. I’ve been a fan of Bright Men of Learning and its various predecessor bands over the years, from frontman Marshall Preddy’s early Wholesome Rollers project on through the evolving lineups of Telluride, Chasmatic, and the current band, digging ‘em live the whole time and definitely liking what I heard in recorded form. Even still, though, I always got this feeling the band and music weren’t quite where they needed to be; close enough to glimpse it, sure, but not yet hitting the mark.
With Fired, they’ve hit that mark — obliterated it, actually — and left me shaking my head and grinning. This is what Preddy’s songs have needed to sound like, the whole freaking time. I couldn’t have articulated it if you’d asked me before I heard it, but trust me, the songs on Fired are perfect right down to their core.
This morning I awoke to read Danny Mee’s review at Nonalignment Pact. I know he’s my co-blogger at NAP, but I hadn’t expected a review from him, much less a good one. He’s always been willing to tell us, and other bands, when we’ve fallen short. So I’ve enjoyed reading his very positive response. Over and over again. Kinda made me late to work.
One of Fired’s most salient characteristics is how good it sounds. Dual lead guitarists Chris Kahlich and Ben Murphy deserve some of the credit, since, as James Love is wont to say, “tone is in the fingers,” but the careful, tasteful, intelligent recording style plays a major role. The band has done well in choosing to work with an engineer who knows how to vary microphones to achieve different effects, especially regarding distance; see the close-up “In The Dark” and the fuzzy, retro “Your Brave Mistake,” which almost sounds like a Strokes pastiche, for examples.
Another word about those lead guitarists. The magic of layered guitar is that it allows a rock band to increase the weight and volume of a song’s primary riff without changing the tone of the instruments. A great band can do this with just a bass and a guitar, but it’s easiest with two guitars; with three guitars, startling unison effects are possible. BMOL, with three guitars including Marshall, do take advantage of these possibilities, dropping into big, enveloping unison riffs on “Sidewalks” and “Left Behind.” But more importantly, when the three aren’t playing together, they separate beautifully, splintering into rhythm, accent, and lead without overwhelming Jonathan Sage’s bass or Marshall’s voice. On the whole, BMOL take advantage of the dramatic possibilities of a three-guitar lineup extremely well, better than nearly any band I’ve heard since Swarm of Angels- certainly better than a band like the Drive-By Truckers.
The Chronicle’s 29-95 blessed us twice. An Interview (also featured in the Chronicle’s print-edition Weekend Preview section) and a review from Ramon Medina:
On the new Bright Men of Learning album, Fired, you hear the sound of a band with a voice and confidence all its own. People who have heard them perform live know that sound but now you can hold it in your hands – 12 inches of sweet analog wax – and everything promised is there: the confident triple guitar attack, the emotive voice of leader Marshall Preddy, the assured rock-steady rhythm section, and songs filled with tangible emotions and heart.
Finally, Marc Brubaker, who is late of Houstonist and now with the Houston Press, posted a review on his own local music blog. This was actually his second try, since his first draft was zapped by a browser crash. We’re sad we missed his first attempt, but the second one was pretty good, too:
Harmonies, lap steel, whoa-ohs, expressive but restrictive guitar interplay and some sharp percussion arrangements provide a solid foundation for what is an excellently constructed album that’s sure to sit high on our Best of 2010 list. Sure, we could pick a favorite song or four, but the fact of the matter is that we’re more than happy to just let this album sit on repeat – something we’ve done several times over the few weeks since it hit our inbox. Do yourself a favor and buy it now.
Yes, please buy it now (or get it for free)!
Oh, and I would like to thank all these writers. Not just for the kind words, but for timing their pieces to coincide with our celebratory shows this weekend. The state of local music writing and press coverage has never been better in this town. There are more great bands than ever before right now, and I think part of that resurgence has been fueled by a local press that’s paying attention.
I’ve been playing local shows since 1997, and I’ve never had a better time than what’s happening right now.
Tags: press, releases, reviews