The first of two albums from the upstate NY band Scharling
(Crown Remedy) opens with a metal/grunge echo of The Cars classic "Just What I Needed," and then proceeds to go in a number of different directions. They take a "kitchen sink approach" here: by the second track, they've thrown the fastball, the slider, the curve, and the change up. (We suspected a knuckleball as well; we got it on track 4's nod to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.) Vocally, these guys vary in sound between Creeper Lagoon and The OC Supertones (with even a little Jack Black thrown in at times); musically it's guitar/bass/drums, and an occasional '80's synth. Ultimately it's a classic rock approach in both design and execution, with a little funk bass for good measure.
The production is really really good. It's pristine. The musicianship is excellent, and very clearly and cleanly reproduced.
What becomes clear is that this represents a band finding its voice, literally. Songs like "Black Cats," "Everything You Wanted It to Be," "Fuzzy Dice and Neon Headlights," and (my personal favorite) "Mild Mannered" work really well because the songs fit like a glove for the singer's vocal range and abilities. (Just ask Nikki Sixx what it's like to write for Mötley Crüe; all those songs are written specifically for Vince Neil's vocal range.) Because of that, some of these songs work vocally, and others don't.
But I digress. It's an album with a lot of promise and has a lot of elements that work really well. Overall, it's an excellent and fun rock record.
2012's Travelers and Thieves definitely feels a little more bluesy than Crown Remedy -- and that's not just because of the introduction of the harmonica right off the bat. At the start of "A Small Coincidence," there's a different energy: confident, relaxed, more comfortable in its own skin. It's a pretty amazing transition; this album is more Christian McNeill/Hybrasil, or the acoustic side of Fossil, than Bad Company.
Lyrically and vocally, they've also taken it to the next level. It emphasizes the singer's vocal range; the lyrics are deep in meaning and resonant emotionally. Going primarily acoustic guitar is a big risk, but it works here. And the production from Crown Remedy is upped even further. The sounds are all well placed: something as simple as adding an organ on "Hymn for the Hopeless" makes this an anthem as opposed to just a great song.
I was really floored by this one. Absolutely astounding. It's nice to know that great music is still out there under the radar. If I had to say something critical here, it would be that there appears to some type of obsession with nautical themes, and that the album flags a bit as it winds down. But those are nitpicks on an outstanding album.
Folk, rock, and pop lovers, you will like this one. Where have these guys been hiding?
CD Placement rating: Crown Remedy - Portable CD Case. Travelers and Thieves - Car CD Changer. Ragging on Jimbo for his musical taste will have to wait for another day.