Wednesday, July 14, 2010
What Laura Says - Bloom Cheek
I was ready to write What Laura Says off even before I heard anything from their sophomore album. I mean the band’s from Tempe, Arizona, a college party town that is the home of Arizona State Sun Devils. I’ve been there. My brother went to ASU and they are reputed to have some of the most well-paid college football players in the world (outside of USC.) Tempe is a town of western oddity - usually ten years behind the times; partial to country, mariachi and ranchera music; and always up for a college beer bash. It is also a suburb of that liberal Arizona bastion known as Phoenix. This is a state where they have prisoners incarcerated in pink pajamas outdoors in the desert; require their citizens to carry identification at all times; and permit them to carry loaded firearms in public. Let me just say I was a bit skeptical that Tempe, Arizona could produce much in the way of cutting edge alternative rock music.
So when I cued up Bloom Cheek my expectations were exceedingly low. I even thought of boycotting the album altogether as a political protest of sorts over Arizona’s immigration policies. But that would not have been fair to the artists Danny Godbold (keys, guitar, vocals), James Mulhern (guitar, percussion, vocals), Greg Muller (drums), Mitch Freedom (bass, vocals) and Jacob Woolsey (percussion) that comprise What Laura Says. So I soldiered on and I’m glad I did.
The album Bloom Cheek crosses genres, bends melodies and exhibits stellar musicianship. One reviewer, Mindy Peterman for Seattle pi Music, likens it to “the more experimental Beatles records.” I didn’t hear the Beatles but I did hear vestiges of Steely Dan, King Crimson, the Commodores, Pink Floyd, Flora Purim, the Beach Boys and Leadbelly all in just the first five tracks!
The album starts with “Training,” a jazzy, alternative song with superb guitar parts and infectious pop vocals and harmonies. The next track, “On The Fence,” boasts ethereal vocals and a harmonized up tempo beat that is almost a samba, but not quite. The song for which the album is named, “Bloom Cheek,” follows. If I didn’t know better I would say the tune was a lost Donald Fagen and Walter Becker classic.
After their foray into Steely Dan-like music What Laura Says moves on to the sound of Brian Wilson on the Smiley Smile album with “I Follow.” Then comes one of my favorite songs on the album, a straight ahead acoustic blues piece “Keep Running Show Special.” The guitars are amazing; the harmonies outstanding. The song sounds like Leadbelly’s “Black Betty.”
The album takes a turn with “Lines and Colours.” This one is in the genre of experimental rock with overtones of Pink Floyd and King Crimson. It starts off slow and morphs into a driving beat covered with rising and falling harmonies and guitar. Then, it stops and instruments are used as sound effects. Listen and you feel like you are in a submarine. I was ready for Justin Hayward to read from “Nights In White Satin,” “Breathe deep the gathering gloom. Watch lights fade in every room. . . .” The song “Gardener of Wonders” which follows returns to the feel of the Beach Boys’ experimental music. It encompasses haunting harmonies with droning and swelling instruments that also contain sound effects that reminded me of a coming storm.
“Roll Some Coin” starts with the sound of change being dropped - somewhat like the start of “Money” by Pink Floyd. This track is an progressive instrumental rocker. Screaming guitars, distortion and swells. Much heavier than anything else on the album. There is no electric guitar on the 1973 album “Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy” by Chick Corea’s Return To Forever. However, the sound of “Roll Some Coin” is rather similar. “I’d Dance For You” slows things down and feels like a Steely Dan album cross-fertilized with the Beach Boys’ album “Smiley Smile.”
On “Grocery List” What Laura Says starts with a reggae rhythm but quickly turns to a mixture of pop evoking the Beach Boys of the late 1960’s. After “Grocery List” is completed the band turns to “Take It Spoke,” an acoustic folk song accented by Brian Wilson-like harmonies, that ends with a classical jazz piano outro The album concludes with “Lambhair McDaniel,” a song with a very 1950’s, early 1960’s, ballad rock feel - like the Drifters meet Zappa. The song and the album ends with clipped and processed ethereal guitar and keyboard playfullness.
What Laura Says tours extensively. As they say on their blog “Here we are, yes indeed, here we are.... on the brink of doing what every Arizonan dreams about doing when the onslaught of summer sizzles the backs of our necks: road tripping.” Through June 25, 2010, the band will be all over the East Coast - from New York, NY to Tampa, FLA. From the end of June through mid-July 2010 you will find them on the West Coast. Outside of Arizona the only paper you will need in order to see them is a concert ticket.
-- Old School
Buy here: Bloom Cheek