Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Outer Vibe - Hoka Hey


As Ogden Nash wrote, “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.”  He was really onto something.  Both are made up of sugars and mass marketed.  One is pure syrupy sweetness and the other is adulterated and potentially noxious.  Either in excess will play havoc with your health.  Both, when consumed in moderation, can be very satisfying.  There are even treats that try to mix the two, like cherry chocolate Bourbon bonbons or Mescal lollipops with encapsulated agave worm. Yum!

I like the occasional sweet, liquor-filled confection and/or shot of whiskey.   I won’t deny it.  In fact, on festive and non-festive occasions I’ve been known to combine all three.  Depending on which hard candies, cordials and liquor you choose your taste buds can have a party while your circulatory system cranks up the beat.  It is fun but overindulgence can come with a price - weight gain, skin problems, diabetes, habit or addiction.  So, I don’t think it is a real good idea to live on a diet of the stuff. It is similar with the sour stuff.  Eat too much of it and it is sure to rot your teeth.

Yet, I have to hand it to the band The Outer Vibe. Their Michigan-based variety of sweet and sour alternative pop rock provides a suitable substitute for gastronomic overindulgence.  You get some of the sweetness but without all of the calories and some of the sourness without ruining tooth enamel. The band is comprised of vocalist Sean Zee, guitarist Nick Hosford, trumpeter and keyboard player Lisa Kacos, bassist Andrew Dornoff and drummer Jeff Brems  To add some fun this working road band dons a variety of clothing reminiscent of 1980’s Glam.  Hoka Hey is The Outer Vibe’s fourth album.  The album name is also the name of the second cut on the album.  Hoka Hey was the battle cry of the Teton Lakota and means “it’s a beautiful day to die.”

Don’t let the threat of sugar pop stop you from listening to this nine track album.  The tune “Motor Heart” is the epitome of the sugary genre but is perfectly performed, and the album gets even better thereafter with less candy coating. “Hoka Hey” may start with treacle but in no time at all turns into an awesome alternative rock anthem.  The track “Move” straddles the lines between hip-hop, soul, funk, R&B and electronica, and is as genre bending as the band’s dress can be gender bending. The tune “Break-Out” mixes electronica, soul and alternative rock to provide a little bit of grit with all the classic Coke.  

One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Crossroads of Desire.”  It starts with a rhythmic African chorale (a little like Paul Simon’s “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes”) while Zee’s vocals carry on until the entire piece turns into a tasty, high energy, hard driving classic rocker.  “Princess of Sin” is also a sonic wonder - a full-on blues-powered alternative classic rock crossover track, complete with sexual double entendre.  What more could an indie band ask for?

Well, how about a little crossover country classic rock ballad?  That is what The Other Vibe delivers with “Reset My Heart”.  The band provides its most hip hop pop alternative tune with “Whatever You Like” which features the modern highly processed pop vocals that have become all the rage of mass media pop stars.  The final cut on the album is a reprise of “Crossroads of Desire” titled the “(Dirt Road Version).” This time, however, there is no African chorale.  The sound is stripped down and the rhythm and instrumentation take on the feel of an Indian raga that morphs into an old classic rock piece.

I think what The Outer Vibe has done is rather novel, exciting and a whole lot of fun.  They have provided some substance to pop.  Theirs is more like an old fashioned sundae - a little vanilla, a bit of chocolate, a dollop of fudge, a pool of syrup and a pillow of fluff, topped off by a cherry cordial.   Tasty stuff that will get your blood racing but won’t add inches to your waistline.

- Old School ` 

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