Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Johnny Headband - Phase 3

Johnny Headband's Phase 3 feels like it's about the eureka, about the enthusiasm, about the -can't-wait-to-get-going...

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“Wastin’ Time” explodes in, jolting at first, but then quickly gets you situated, still strongly rousing you into an instant hard-driving dance/rock energy – perhaps specifically designed to feel as though we are joining our regularly scheduled programming—already in progress—as a means of expressing Johnny Headband’s continuous development. This is Phase 3. “I’ve got to start again,” singer/keyboardist Chad Thompson howls on the refrain of this opening anthem against sitting still, an anthem against losing your life to the computer-set day job. We’re able to gather our bearings as a cowbell clatters in the background under bassist Keith Thompsons exertive sighs, “breath in—breath out,” before the keyboards swell and slide and the drums pound to push the song into a higher gear.

The girth added to Headband’s particular flavor of prog/pop and disco-tinged krautrock is apparent before “Wastin’ Time” has even had one minute to warm up in its ever punching, sliding run, when guitarist Pan!c (the newest addition) brings in a metaly/funky guitar riff to shimmy right beside the fuzzy synth before adding to the vocal harmonies. And the way those fuzzy-tones cascade upon the second chorus and Chad’s vocals, irked and passionate in their declarative howls it sets a fresh flavor of soul for the shy/magnetic singer.

Always adept at setting a mood, “Fly Song” extols exactly what it sounds like – soaring harmonies, spacey guitar streams, RGS's marching/danceable rhythm and fuzzy, instantly arresting vocal melodies that could turn into some kind of kazoo-led orchestra of Hey Jude-like communal sways.

Much like “Wastin’ Time” is the defining statement of Headband’s drift away from the more playful exuberance of 2007’s Happiness Is Underrated, the opening sludgy/buzzy guitar growls of “Death of a Disco Beat” has a an almost sanctimonious (by space-rock standards), grab-ya-by-the-collar effect that loosens you to fall into this shoulder-shimmying ballad, dark and pedaling at first in a somber drum-led hustle over funky bass blurts. But the first two verses seem to only flirt with you only to recede for the guitars and synths to flare up in momentary flips, before we finally launch into the chorus – “Ohhhh ohh aaaaaay oh woooooh hoooooo…” This chant-like ballad, so pulsed by its atmospheric accoutrements, surfy guitars, tribal drums, - it’s the perfect sibling for the weightless feeling escapism of “Fly Song,” but palpably conscious that when it runs out – it means the end of the all too brief EP, giving it that go for broke mood that feels celebratory. And, appropriately celebratory – as the EP acts as a narrative for breaking out of stunted blocks, be they simple writers blocks or blocks brought on by the begrudged day job – it’s here, it’s hit, how else would you let it out but that visceral wordless howl of a chorus? With one final “whoo” as the song fades away.

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