Vandolah began its life as a studio band, recording on a 4-track tape machine in 1999. Five years, several releases and an upgrade to a digital studio later the band has honed their sound and production skills to professional quality. And so it is with Please, a collection of 12 very cohesive songs in the soft, sad, indie-rock vein of Wilco and their ilk. As this release holds together so well as an album (as opposed to a series of songs stuck together with mucilage) let’s run down this bad boy in order, eh?
“Red Giant” starts everything off with an accordion-like drone, light acoustic guitar and world-weary vocals in a song that reminds me of Floyd’s “Goodbye Cruel World.” “Red Giant” segues nicely into “Not Gonna Do It Again,” with varied guitar patterns (one of which dredges up images of “Hotel California”), simple organ, and more regret couched in a very memorable melody. “Monoman” sets nice contrast with overdriven guitars by Dan Gruenke, Kyle Stevenson on full drum kit and a body moving slow groove, accenting the EQ’d vocals with lots of nice electronic sound touches. Unusual stereo slapback effects set “Sleep Will Never Come,” another moody song backed by light organ, while “Gravity Is King” sports a western guitar and lamenting lead vocals by songwriter Mark Hutchins plus some nice vocal harmonies at opportune moments.
“Hovercraft Now!” is the only song recorded at Monastic Chambers and incidentally was selected for the latest Essentials compilation. This upbeat ditty has a great swagger carried by the guitars, an uplifting chorus melody with candy-sweet vocal harmonies and a George Harrison feel in the tasty, extras-laden bridge. Quivering guitars and a slow, regretful melody make “New Mistakes” sound like lonely cowboy music, while “Niagra Falls” revels in tonal variety, Ringo drums, a great pop-rock melody and masterful bass playing by Darren Monroe. Drum machine clicks open and permeate “One-Trick Snowman,” which unfortunately detract from an otherwise excellent and mournful song. “Old Man Shuffle” is about a weary stunt man at the end of his career, augmented by slide guitar and shimmering guitars that mirror his failing body. Paraphrasing Lennon with “We all shine on like a terrible sun,” “All Shine On” is an exercise in resignation, juxtaposing the harmonized, yet beaten vocals against a glossy 12-string guitar. The album ends on “Six-Story Sky,” a surprisingly uptempo number where Hutchins sings of a stunt man who hopes his son won’t follow in his broken footsteps via a very catchy melody.
What more can I say except that this is one of the most stunning projects I’ve heard come out of Fort Wayne? Everything from the songwriting to the production to the artwork makes me perspire in amazement and inspires me to greater challenges, the way great art should. Take your hovercraft to your local Wooden Nickel and experience this one for yourself, now!
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