Most of you know how difficult it is to get me to review anything these days. So when I got two CD's from The Weisstronauts, that increased my expected review period from three months to six.
After an appropriate period of grousing, I gave both Nineteen Something Nine and the EP In Memphis 2 a whirl. (And all in one week!)
Now for the confession part of the story: I have seen this band play a few times and have been somewhat underwhelmed. Or maybe it was that their tastes and mine didn't coincide. I could still see the latter after listening to Nineteen Something Nine; the former definitely not.
The band in a nutshell: three guitars, bass, drum, a little piano, a tiny bit of vocal; it's pretty much all instrumental. It's like a ramped up folk band that happens to jam and play a lot of electric guitar. Sometimes it feels like they're a riffing scat band, other times a very musically literate lounge band, and sometimes a jazz band hiding behind guitars. On "Sunburn" they even sound like The Alan Parsons Project.
This variety surprised me. In my previous experience with the band, I recall a Weisstronaut "sound" in the first, second, third, eighth song, etc., I heard. And for me, that's where I tuned out.
In this group of songs, they still retain that common musical thread, but have overcome the repetitiveness. And much to my surprise... I just kept playing it over and over and over again. In a word: it's great. (Okay, two words.)
The guitar sounds and production on this album are just fantastic. "Sunburn" in particular was amazing blasting through the big speakers. Don't bother listening online; I dismissed "Pete's Straw Hat" out of hand even in mp3 format, but love the fully mixed version when I listened to the CD.
I love the little nods to musical heritage throughout the album. For example, there's one to the Rolling Stones' "Gimmie Shelter" in "Timmy the Smelter" and one to "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" in "A Dandy's Moth Collection." (And perhaps the bass line from the Charlie Brown theme in the latter as well. But I'm not completely sure on that.)
"Hoopin'," "Timmy the Smelter," and "Sunburn" are worth the price of admission alone, but really the whole album is just fantastic. It's excellent players, all finding their space within songs without being sparce, creating a great sound that's both interesting and expertly mastered. This was a pleasant surprise of well-crafted, well-produced guitar folk rock.
In Memphis 2 is part of a series of 4-song EP's (I'm guessing) recorded when the band had a chance to record in some Memphis studios. Once again, it's great stuff, particularly the standout "Tabasco Fiasco."
And you can get both albums for $15. Not bad. You will not be disappointed.
CD Placement Rating: Car CD Changer. Yes, they're that good.
Merch rating: I would make sure I bought at least two drinks during their set (e\which is what clubs care about). And I'll definitely be on board for their next album, as well as In Memphis 1.