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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