Often I read a band described as sounding ‘Stones-like.’ This always seems to be attached to gritty blues-based rock and has become a generic, not very helpful description.
Yet there’s something odd about this description too. The Rolling Stones have always been a very eclectic band in mixing garage, blues, soul, psyche, and hard rock. I know what the description means; think Midnight Rambler. But, the bands that have earned the description, such as The Black Crowes, don’t sound much like the Stones.
Maybe it’s more accurate to suggest comparison to the Stones implies a band sounds like a greasy blues-rock band, and, the Stones are the archetypal example.
This comes to mind when I reflect upon the classic influences extant in contemporary hard rock. I don’t track the various genres closely at all, but when I hear something with the ring of the long gone era (say, 1965-1975) I perk up.
There was a long period from the late seventies through the nineties when it wasn’t even respectable to wear those influences loudly. Oh, there was the so-called Paisley sound, but between punk and grunge and all those drum machines, it seemed (at the time,) the classic sound had been consigned to outposts like southern rock, several dinosaurs who still walk the earth, and bands loaded with chart appeal, like the Del-Lords, Jellyfish, but with no chart to appeal to.
Cycles of regeneration work in the background. Popular styles mature and begin to become weary. Still, the means for evolution lay there in the storehouse of the past. New approaches come to straddle influences. For example, take Animal Collective–moving away from alternative rock and back toward old fashioned west coast harmony pop.
One of my favorites of this new breed is The Quarter After, a L.A. quarter led by Rob Campanella, who square and update the psychedelic folk of early The Byrds and Moby Grape. But, darnit, their last record Changes After, came out way back in 2008.
When I read a review of The Dirty Sweet, they were described as sounding like the Stones. (Oh, no.) I checked out 2007’s …Of Monarchs and Beggars. As it turns out, this San Diego band does play greasy blues-rock, but their sound is much more in the vain of The Black Crowes. Harder. Except singer Ryan Koontz, who sounds much like Chris Robinson, isn’t as much a howler; a good thing.
What delights is their appealing referencing of classic hard and psych styles. The Dirty Sweet never ape their antecendents. They dial the influences in, so, don’t be surprised if you listen and muse to yourself, ‘Hmmm, Thin Lizzy, Quicksilver Messenger Service.’
Their new record American Spiritual is just as good as their very solid earlier record. It rolls more 70’s flavors into their hard rocking recipe. At times the classic model they echo is a good, little duplicated one, Spirit.
Even better is Earl Greyhound. They’re a power trio with a lock down drummer Ricc Sheridan, a jazzy bassist/singer Kamara Thomas, and a terrific guitarist with an encyclopedic grasp of antique guitar slinging, Matt Whyte. Their music doesn’t usually mine the stripped down power trio territory. Instead, they weigh in with an ambitious synthesis of disparate genres.
Their second record Soft Targets, following their debut EP, is very good. It reminds me of the hard power pop of Kings X. A typical move here grafts Brit pop harmonies onto anthemic crunch. Four years later, their brand new record Suspicious Package–great title–is altogether more adventurous and even more syncretic. If you can imagine what it means to meld Savoy Brown with Santana, you’d be onto just one of Earl Greyhound‘s stylistic fusions. And, overall, the emphasis shifts from sparkling pop to heavy driving grooves.
Earl Greyhound is daring, reaching beyond their influences, and they’re posed to be a sonic leader in the second decade of the new century.