Friday, September 23, 2011

Tracer - Spaces In Between

Homegrown rock out of the land down under, Spaces In Between, the new album by Tracer promises to become the biggest Aussie rock export since the Young brothers paraded AC/DC out for the world to see. Not too surprisingly, Tracer is fronted by the two brothers Brown, Leigh and Michael, who have been knocking out the rock together since early in this century. These fellows certainly do sound as thick as thieves - as if they've carved out a chunk of granite and made it home.

Everything I've heard concerning the band seems slightly off the mark - many comparisons to the desert fueled fires of Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, and then jumping to nineties grunge - I hear much more primal metal, a slight nod to Budgie styled boogie, and classic 80s crotch rock. They exhibit none of the tentative sloppiness that hounded every band that emerged from America's Northwest in the 90s, and damned little of the ADD inspired structure changes and forced complexity that has left me scratching my head at many of the Stoner ilk. Tracer are as tight as tight can be - an even cursory listen will have you humming, nodding, and seeing quite clearly where these guys are coming from, and where they're going. They're going on tour, they're going to rock the world, and they are going to get laid. Let's just hope that along the way, they sell some records, sell out some shows, and get paid.

Too Much is a great lead track, firing off with an insistent riff, and a vocal that is mixed perfectly to punch through the dense drums, and the Brown brothers' riffery. Reminds me a bit of the effect Def Leppard's first album on me, many years ago -  it's instantly obvious that these guys came to play. The track jumps out of the speakers, and takes you exactly where the band wants you to go. Michael Brown's wah soaked solo will have the guitar fans' attention - these guys can play. No, this isn't the depressed, pissed off nineties, nor the vagueness of most stoner rock - Tracer goes directly and effectively for the target.

Smart boogie? You bet. It happens every so often that a band will inject a dose of danceable boogie onto a track, and not come off sounding hokey, or unintelligent. Foghat did it in the seventies by whipping out dual slide guitars that proved slides were not the sole property of the American South, and throughout the nineties, Raging Slab did it with ferociously cool guitars, and some seriously good songwriting. Tracer bring some serious swing to the album's second cut, Push, but they transcend the pitfalls of the genre, and move it on from the southern funk to some silky metal moves in time for the chorus, which features a killer riff that moves under the vocals fantastically. I'm guessing the Brown's are big fans of the King of The Riff, Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi. They've learned their lessons well.

Walk Alone is a huge riffer that will have audiences loving these guys live. It tromps along quite nicely before it slows down into a thoughtful psychedelic break that is filled with great tones, notes and fills from both of the Browns. Michael's guitar drives the band through most of the turns, but his brother Leah's bass is never far away, adding interest and a ton of muscular support. Andre Wise provides a rock solid foundation on the drums - he's flashy and  hard hitting, but always right for the song.

The vocal on Louder Than This will have you thinking Ian Gillan, but the Browns avoid further comparisons as the tune itself is just more inventive rock writing - the art of writing a riff is one of rock's toughest tasks, make no mistake about it, and these fellows write great riffs. The changes here aren't jarring or a surprise, instead they are subtle and at times almost subliminal in their transparency. They just sneak up on you, and you smile. There are myriad examples of the bands' creativity on every track - they never play it dumb, and they keep it interesting and stimulating all the way through.

Devil's Ride is a fairly standard sounding chunk of hard rock, made more interesting by some clever background vocals.

Powerful, straight ahead rock continues with The Bitch. They have the decency to never say "the bitch" anywhere on the tune, which redeems the weak title. The song is the one place on the record in which I'm reminded of the Seattle sound, as the vocal has a definite Chris Cornell vibe, but the Northwest kids were never this succinct, or as competent with their instruments. Leigh Brown's background vocals on this tune are awesome - he sings very well, and maybe even more importantly, he's very creative with the parts he chooses to add. I would have turned him up a bit in the mix, in fact. He always brings something interesting to the party, and it should be heard!

Voices In The Rain sees Tracer slowing things down, and again the band's chops and arranging skills do much to prop up what is a rather straight ahead rock radio sort of song. The rhythm section move things around nicely, and the refrain from The Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter keeps easing into my brain, though they suggest it more than they parrot it.

The album's title track gets things back on track, beginning with a whip-snap riff that is razor sharp, which then is replaced by a wonderfully fuzzed out bassline that drives the verses. Michael Brown's strong vocal moves things along briskly as the band adds horsepower at every turn. There's more instrumental discourse on this than any track yet, and here the band shines as the tune breaks into a Mid-Easterm motif before returning with a brutal dose of noise rock. The Spaces In Between is exactly where this band shines. Their excellent use of background vocals, great guitar layering, and inspired ensemble playing keeps them a head above the herd.

Leigh Brown's bass line rings in Dead Inside, as brother Michael weaves a tale of deception with no redemption in sight. The band builds loudly alongside the singer's anger until he brings it back down with a more pensive guitar solo, then returns with a final anthemic verse and chorus to wrap things up.

Tracer makes a lot of noise for a three piece, that is for sure. They clearly have put their all into writing a record that avoids the traps that haunt three piece rock bands - boredom and repetition. Never more so than on Save My Breath, which sees the band doing what they do best, taking basic riff rock and making it both interesting and compelling.

All In My Head is a great track - kind of a rock bolero thing, with a slinky, sophisticated guitar melody that underpins the verses nicely before the big chords come back in for the chorus. Michael Brown's guitar playing on this one is exceptional, as he changes tones, styles, and tempos without ever sounding forced. This is Tracer at their most melodic, and their most creative - greatness lives on this track.

The album wraps up with a strong rocker, Won't Let It Die (Run Mary). The band pulls out every trick they've turned, and after a slight dip through the mid-section, they're solidly back on track, and you're again thinking that this is a damned fine band which just could become a great one.

Spaces In Between is a winner, of that there is no doubt. These guys are doing it right, and I'm guessing they're about another year of touring and writing to land themselves in the bigs. In the meantime, if you like you're rock on the classic heavy side, you can't go wrong here.  

Thanks to Peter Noble and Tracer.

Spaces In Between - Out October 3rd on Cool Green Recordings/Mascot Group
To Pre-Order -

1 comment:

Steve Hymer said...
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