Talk to any member of the now defunct B-Sharps and you’ll very likely learn one thing: they don’t like their second album, The “B” Is For Party, quite as much as their 2009 debut, the excellent Cherchez Kahuna. I’m not sure if this is a consensus or not, but at least one Sharp told me that they think it’s maybe too polished-sounding. Unlike their debut, which was recorded mostly live, analog style, and in a garage, Party was put down digitally. So is it a clean, polished record? Not to these ears. I mean, it’s not Bee Thousand, but it sounds perfectly timeless and authentic, despite its digital pappy. Chief Sharps songwriter, bassist Nick Allison, has said that Party was made with the purpose of capturing the band’s last batch of songs before calling it quits and moving on to new projects. The record, again recorded in a garage or barn hideout somewhere in Indiana, is perfectly rocking, held together by the classic rock-minded riffage of Mitch Frazier. Having played many of these songs live for several months before entering the “studio,” the Sharps here sound so solid, or should I say seasoned. Not common for musicians between the ages of 19 and 25.
Sure, the vocals are upfront, the riffs are a little more obvious and the are hooks bigger and bolder. I’m cool with all that. I’m so cool with all these updates from the Cherchez sound that I can already say that I prefer Party. At nine songs spread over just 25 minutes, it’s more concise, user-friendly and immediate. Hearing songs like the poppy “Eddie Blue” and instantly classic “Is This Seat Taken?” bums me out. I want this band around, and I want them to believe in this great record. I wanna hear opener “Hooked” played as loudly as possible, and I want rhythm guitarist Timmy Oberley to someday sing lead vocals on closer “(Timmy Has Fallen) Down the Well,” a twangy cut he co-wrote with Allison. I wanna see drummer Alex Allison’s big smile as he bashes out solid rock rhythms like a 30-year pro, and I already miss the thought of Frazier throwing his guitar against the wall after his blistering work on “Almost Always.” And last but not least, how can we not already miss singer Keith Owen, who has blossomed into a heckuva rock n’ roll singer?
A few cuts – like “Laika,” “Na Na Na” and “Almost Always” – could have maybe used a little more post-production tweakage or even some parts re-recorded, but these are the Sharps, not Coldplay. The imperfections are charming and part of the package. “Timmy,” for example, sounds loose, as if it’s a live-in-studio first take. That aesthetic won’t work for most bands, but it does for the Sharps, all masters of their trade. They probably could’ve recorded this last rocking batch of tunes live in a single take, and it’d be great. But instead we get a lean, mean rock n’ roll album that to these ears sounds like the best document yet of what these musicians can do. The many big highlights overshadow the handful of holes, with songs like “Hooked,” “Eddie Blue,” “The Most” and “The Mattress Song” standing as some of the best pure rock n’ roll the band’s home state of Indiana has produced in recent memory. With the Sharps now a thing of the past, you’d best be sure to pick up a copy of this before it goes out of print.