Friday, February 19, 2010

HAARD - Thornley family rocks!

Patrick Benti has been on tour for many years with Big Wreck and subsequently Thornley. Often described by Ian as his "little brother" when he was called out to play on some songs, he's been absorbing all that surrounds him. When Tavis Stanley moved on to Art of Dying, Patrick provided a kick in the ass to the Thornley live show.

Well "little brother" has put together a monster fun outfit with HAARD. The band, Ed Mortenson on drums and Jeff Eager on bass are an energetic trio. Savour the Flavour has an entirely unselfconscious air about it. It take left turns when you least expect it, it ziggs into prog-rock territory just when you thought it was gonna zag into a pop-tune.

It's got some great pedigreed players and associations on it too, including Ian Thornley, Dave Henning and Mike Mangini (Steve Via,Extreme). Availing his long friendship with the Big Wreck guys, he even had Forrest Williams in the wings. Their involvement, however seems to be subverted to the overall HAARD sound. They sort of permeate the sound more than take solo spins on the tracks. This seems to be a result of John Whynot's whimsical production. I mean that in a good way. The entire CD is tight in it's performance but very loose in a "catchy party" way. I cannot get some of these tunes out of my head.

For Thornley fans, familiar with some of his demo stuff, you'll find that they flavor some of the atmosphere on the CD, but Patrick has his own spin on it all. First off his voice is like a cross between a buzz saw and Dan McCafferty the lead singer for the proto-AC/DC rock band Nazareth.

Dan McCafferty

HAARD should cover this (They actually say Savour the Flavour in this one at the 2:12 mark):


So I confess to being a partial reviewer because of my fandom of Thornley and the Wreck guys AND the fact that Nazareth was one of my highschool/early college faves. It's all hooky and fun. The "radio outreach" songs have a nice gimmick while remaining universally appealing.

Harvard Yard bounces the Bahston accent off of the wall in a "I'm Turning Japanese" kind of way. Kinda 80's, but fresh!

Rock Tune Radio is a tribute to rock radio call ins with all the DJ accouterments. It echoes the fun of a band like Rockpile in the 80's with some modern bite.

The more I listen, the more 80's feel comes through sans all the horrific "fashion" of the day. The End of All You Know is a case in point. The instrumentation is pure NOW (no corny synth/drum of the moment) in your face, like Come Again was. So all fans who dug Come Again this is an adrenal hit like that was.

Chill Pill Party spews a stream of unconsciousness, rapid fire, depiction of the road life with an electric razor like energy. Pump it up and walk on.

The title track carries on this attitude with a more positive conclusion; it all works out in the end. The backing vocals pump and the track weaves in and out. It's got a Coheed and Cambria, pace without the ponderous sci-fi overtones.

Confidential has wonderfully loping rhythm that sounds totally Big Wreck/Thornley to me. Nice accent chords break up and punctuate with a pinchy forward and backward eastern guitar weaving behind. There are parts that almost have a Def Leppard feel to the chorus - "I'm terrified". I really like this track!!!

Eclipse is a poppy beautiful ballad. Patrick sounds sweet and earnest but his voice is so unique that it stands out from the usual fare, to me. This is a "current" radio-friendly track, for sure.

Ian is credited on Moody and you can hear his yell here and there. I hear echoes of Joe Elliot "Animal" in the "MOODEEEEH" nice part and then in wizzes the NAZ-Benti buzzsaw. It has a nice LA rap ambiance to it's pattern while still retaining it's metal.

X That Marks the Spot starts out with a soft spanish/asian guitar under the moonlight and then careens into grindy nu-metal thunder that cops a Devin Townsend bombast.

Devin Townsend Canada:

But, then a twin guitar melody line insinuates itself through the rave up. Nice subtle touches like this, surprise throughout the CD.

The Dogs Are Out is just a straight up rock tune like the market wants, with unique vocal stylings, that does a Billy Joel/REM style rave up as the outro.

Far Fetched opens like a Collective Soul track, only to veer into Coheed and Cambria bluster and theme. Such a catchy track! The vocals are sweet and biting at the same time. The backing voicing is GREAT!!!! and SO FRESH! Great powerful guitars, quiet spacing, and Bohemian Rhapsody inspired kaleidoscopic chants and woops.

Spoof and Parody doesn't hook me like the others (I'm old and cranky) but sports some nice soloing.

LTOW could be a Crooked Vultures riff and Patrick does his most rip-snorting vocal yet. Total high energy riffage. The syncopated percussive choppy guitar meshes with the Dave Kraus drumming which is VERY tight and propels the track at a frenetic gallup. Can't help bounce along to this one.

Which brings me to Karate Chop. Oh Karate Chop, I CAN"T GET YOU OUT OF MY HEAD! Such a fun cut! A flat out pop hit. Tight, tight, tight musicianship brimming with cheezy kitschy lyrics that hooks you and makes you dance. Dave Kraus's drumming kicks ass.

To me this CD has ALL the fun an album should have! Crafted with mature skill and world class production, if you can't enjoy this CD you need to get examined by a Doctor. Well done.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Thornley - One Month Later '98

Tradewinds... Sea Bright, NJ... Sat., Feb. 28, 1998

I’m Baaack! On Feb. 28th I went to see Big Wreck open for Creed at the Tradewinds in NJ. It’s a huge, sprawling club setup for indoor-outdoor partying.

The crowd was a typical Jersey mix of drunks, barely legal teens, mid forties old farts like me and a preponderance of knuckleheaded grunge metal "dudes". From my perspective only a small percentage of the 2000 or so people at the show even heard of Big Wreck.

My brother and I, (now a huge BW fan) took the spartan approach, no drinking and or other distractions, and positioned ourselves 15 feet from the stage dead center. We suffered through the opening act like cattle. BW hit the stage 10:45 with "Look what I found". The first time I saw them I knew none of the music, this time I could and did sing along (annoying, I know, I just couldn’t help it). The song ripped, sounded thicker and stronger than I remembered. The band looked loose, at ease and on a mission to win over this crowd. The song has great time changes, dynamics and is sure to be a classic. I’m not a good reviewer because I’m primarily there to enjoy (dance, sing, jump, shout) the band, so forgive the loss of detail.

Most of the crowd seemed stunned, and a little lost since the song has a little bit more than the usual 1 2 3. The sentiment of the song, to me, seems to cut on bands like Creed, pretty ironic eh? Ian ended with a furious slide "hoedown".

Next was "That song", destined to be a sing along classic in an arena. They really emoted on this one, Ian’s vocals were dead on, the crunch balanced against the quiet refrain of the solo His vocals were stunning. "Blown wide open" was thick, fat, comfortable and majestic, a real anthem. The metaphor is humorous, and the band had fun with it. Ian Thornely is a real personality. He reminds me of early Prince or Billy Idol, in a way, playful and explosive yet always 
with a twinkle in his eye and a curl to his lip.

By the way did I mention the rest of the band? Bouncy, unrushed and dead-on with the stop-time dynamics of these songs. It was most evident on the next song, "How would you know". From the jangly beginning to the "if what you need is what you got..." part, this song expanded and has become quite the showcase. Ian even forgot the second verse, and 
laughingly blew off the mistake, with a furious jam. In the middle of the song they expanded into a whole new riff, sure to be a new song, tremendous! This reminds me of another little band that I heard do "Southbound Suarez" in the middle of "No Quarter" on the ‘75 tour, a full two years before it actually became a song on an album. I love a band that takes chances, how interesting!

Ian then went solo with a loose slide guitar jam, including "amazing grace". This sonic call and response, journey was done without the band, centerstage, tons of echo, deep bass sounds balanced with haunting echo extended emotional vocals that were reminiscent of an erie Elvis Costello song on his "Mighty like a Rose" album. Actually, Ian’s pleading, emotional singing reminds me of EC quite a bit. Elvis Costello meets Jimmy Hendrix, I swear!!!

"Between you and I" was next and it cooked. I love that line, " It never was your fault, the wind just seemed to carry the spit your way" and he carried it off with the proper vitriol. 

Ian then reminded the crowd how much he appreciated them (Jersey audience and all), evidently they have played here before. He comes off very gentle, genuine and sincere. He told us not to forget to welcome Creed, with a sly grin on his face, knowing they had won over quite a few new fans. Amidst a smattering of boos, at the mention of Creed they announced "Through the cracks". This was in the "whole lotta love vein, complete with cacophonous final jam. Broken strings, lost time, out of sync everyone doing their own thing, makes no sense, find the hook finish with a flourish, awesome, draining performance and they were gone.

People around us were impressed, one guy talked about how he couldn’t take the CD out of his player because all the songs are one better than the other. I still think that most of the music was over peoples’ heads’ but it is inevitable, this band will hook ya. The songs are just too good, too dynamic, too melodious, and too real to be ignored. I can’t wait to see them in a concert hall setting, it couldn’t happen too soon.

Big Wreck, big time! thanx fer lettin me share
-- buk

My First Thornley Post '98

I CAN'T believe it's been 12 years!

I Just found this post that I wrote for a Zeppelin message board, a week or so after the show (I don't believe that there was a big wreck message board yet, but I HAD to tell somebody!). I purchased ILMO directly from Ian's hand at the show. He signed the CD (I didn't even ask - didn't know it was a thing to do) and collected my money. There was no merch counter, no nothing. Just Patrick Benti and the guys. Nice to remember it again.

Rec Room... Wallington, NJ... Thurs., Jan. 11, 1998
Thursday Jan 11th, I went to see Big Wreck at a cinder block walled, warehouse-of-a-place in Wallinton, NJ called, oddly enough, the Rec Room. Like most people at the time, I knew this band only through their Led Zep meets BaBa O'rielly meets hillbilly stomp song, "The Oaf", that is being played to death on both the "alti" station and the classic stations in the NY area. Great riff, great bass drum kick, swirling vocals, a truely joyous, ballsy tune that has one hit wonder written all over it. Like most people, if they played one or two decent songs along with a rousing version of their hit I would be happy.

I was truely not prepared for these guys. Now I'm 43, and have been a music fan for a long time. I own my own graphics firm and can listen to music all day long (mostly WDHA/K-rock/WSOU so for my age I'm fairly current). I'm a die hard Zep fan having seen them live in 74', 77 and on all their solo tours. My favorites range from Elvis Costello to Soundgarden to Alanis to XTC, so you can see that I consider myself a fairly open minded and milti-dimensional listener.

I found that I am affected by music with a sizeable chunk of wit and visceral emotion. Sorry for the long qualification, but I feel the need to preface this posting in order to not sound like an Alantic Records shill or a rambling old nutcase.

Big Wreck are absolutely amazing! Ian Thornley is one of the most gifted guitar composers I've heard in years. They played the entire album, and 13 guitar changes and 13 melody-hook-riff laden, dense, powerful emotional tracks later they left me convinced. These guys are no joke!

How many times have you seen a band and known nothing of their music and been hooked once or twice during a performance if your lucky. Every song had wonderful twists and turns in unexpected directions. A song would have me hooked on the opening riff, only to introduce a soaring bridge into an extended breakdown. And all the while your concentrating on the melody and the driving rhythm Ian is banging, twisting, bending the sonic envelope. He plays with his body as part of the guitar, interacting with the amps. He's got big meat hooks for hands and he uses the "whole" guitar to get a tremendous range of styles appropriate to each song.

To top it all off, this guy can sing better than he can play!!! Their sound is powerful and very dense in the bass range yet their sense of melody is never back seated. I have never had my head so sweetly banged into the floor. David Henning really adds crunch where needed, swing where appropriate and most importantly "space". This is a band that understands what not to play.

Brian Doherty is the perfect support player. He compliments and anchors the tracks in order to allow Ian to paint. Last but not least, Forest Williams, one of the most bonzo-esque drummers in the best sense, really understands space, great time, tasty fills, can stop/start on a dime, and can be bone crushingly Jurrasic. Needless to say, I was impressed. I bought the CD and have played it non-stop start to finish, at least 25 times since Thursday. I cannot stop telling my friends how good these guys are.

This is a band that has taken vast musical styles, both contemporary and past and blended them purposefully and tastefully without losing the emotion and the joy of the music. Few bands can pique my interest for two tracks nevermind a whole album. And certainly no whiny Seattle drivel delivered here, they act like they truly enjoy these compositions.

My current fave is "That Song", but it changes every day. I can't recommend this CD enough. If this band doesn't become legendary I'll eat my shoes. Me and this other guy in the Rec Room were embarassed for the lack of people in the crowd and their lack of recognition for what they were seeing. People are sheep, they need to be told what is good. Well goddamit this band is good. I almost feel sad that I've been this blown away only weeks before the new Page/Plant release. Now all you zeppaholics don't get mad when you read this post, Jimmy would love these guys. They carry the essence of the music, taking it to that joyous level that few bands can do. See you when I hear the new Zep release.

Tanx for lettin me share.
-- buk