It's not every day that you get to round up an ex-Db and an ex-Jellyfish-er in the same article... But .... that in fact is what we're going to attempt today in our review of two fine new recordings from the world of independently produced 21st Century rock 'n' roll.
Game Day by Peter Holsapple is the first solo album in more than 20 years by this founding member of The dBs (and touring member of late '80s REM and one time Mr. Susan Cowsill). And while we have heard him in the interim years with groups like The Continental Drifters and of course The dBs -- the latter's reunion album Falling Off The Sky was one of my favorite releases of 2012 -- it is nice to hear a concentrated dose of just his music for an extended journey, a mature perspective from one of indie rock's pioneers.
Holsapple's new solo album takes us from raw indie flavored rockers to heartfelt tearjerkers. Along the way he ponders his own self worth ("Game Day"), reflects on relationships ("Commonplace," "Inventory," "Yelling At Clouds"), and life in general (the blues-rocking "In Too Deep"). Haunting hooks and mysterious melodies inhabit the dark corners 'n cobwebs of Holsapple's musical storytelling ("Cinderella Style," "Not Right Now").
And while all of this new music has been growing on me in the best possible way, drawing me back for multiple listens, I have to say it was like hearing from an old friend when the "super bonus track" called "Don't Talk About The War," came on at the end of the CD. This is a song which I reviewed when Holsapple released it as a single in 2017 (click here for that). This fine Band-like anthem has only grown in stature and is well worth the price of admission to Game Day's ballpark to hear it.
Bird Streets: Ok, so it was perhaps a little bit deceiving of me to only cite co-producer and co-songwriter Jason Falkner in the headline of this review given that there was somebody else heavily involved with this album's creation. However I have to be honest and ask: how many of us have actually heard of fellow named John Brodeur before?
Unless you happen to be reading certain indie 'zines 'n blogs 'n such, I suspect you -- like myself just before you -- had not heard of him. Heck, doing a search on the web Google lists him as an actor! So... while Jason is no doubt all over this as producer and co-songwriter, Brodeur is the clear central focus on Bird Streets.
I know... Whatever...
Anyhow... The happy news is that now you know about John Brodeur and he's a really fine songwriter who apparently befriended and convinced Falkner to produce this new album. If you are familiar with Falkner's work, Bird Streets smiles sweetly alongside his catalog of stellar rock works over the years (from Jellyfish to The Grays to his recent work with Ireland's Thomas Walsh crafting the latest Pugwash album, Silverlake, which I reviewed here, by the way).
Bird Streets has no shortage of powerful pop gems but one of my immediate favorites is "Betting on the Sun," with its brilliant opening lyric ("I remember when we were tighter than Steely Dan...") and it's sunshine-for-days hook-chorus. "Stop To Breathe" is an epic -- think Mick Ronson kissing and making up with Bowie after a bitter marriage counseling session and then going out to see Spacehog play live somewhere. From its opening notes, the song offers up a near-perfect blend of scathing lyrics devouring a broken relationship as the music heads skyward.
"Thanks For Calling" feels like a song I might have expected to hear on Weezer's second album had it been as good as the first (sorry, but I never quite recovered from the disappointment of Pinkerton) or perhaps, oddly enough, a dBs album (see prior review above of dB Peter Holsapple's new album in case you skipped over it). "Pretty Bones" feels almost like a lost Lou Barlow gem, with its finger-strummed nylon-string acoustic guitar, sorrowful vocals and aching melody.
And so it goes on Bird Streets, a most tasty slice of modern American indie rock pie.
Bravo to Omnivore Records for having the courage to release a new artist like this in today's trend-heavy music climate. Hopefully people will discover and escalate this record so it doesn't disappear into the recesses of power pop obsessives (such as which happened to Falkner's revered, one-off eponymous studio project called The Grays... an album I buy every time I come across a copy -- usually in a record store clearance or bargain bin -- to give to potentially appreciative friends who most times have never heard of it).
Bird Streets is streaming in CD quality up on Tidal (click here to jump to it) and you can also find it on Amazon (click here). There is also a vinyl version available (which I have not heard... yet) that was mastered at Abbey Road (click here for more info on that).