Monday, October 1, 2012

The Motel Beds - Dumb Gold: No Fool's Paradise

Dumb Gold is the fourth full length album by The Motel Beds, and they'll probably have another in the can by the time I'm done writing this. Following closely on the heels of last year's Tango Boys, which included the run away hit, Tropics of the Sand (a duet with local legend and ex-Breeder, Kelley Deal), this may be the album that finally sees another Dayton band pack the van and hit the road for bigger and better things.

Photo by Scott Ryan
Dayton rock bands have never gone by the rules - they don't know what decade it is, let alone what year, or just how many records they may have made and released in the last few years. They work fast, they work hard, and they leave some loose edges. Catch it while you can, because it won't last forever. This tradition began back in the last century when then school teacher Robert Pollard decided he's had enough of higher education and elementary school kids, and headed off to indie rock superstardom with Guided By Voices (and some few dozen sundry other bands, projects, and guises) - did I mention that Cheap Trick's Rick Neilsen branded them "Guided By Beer"? There's something in the water in this part of Ohio that has young rockers swilling more hootch than mother's milk, but it never seems to get in the way of the productivity - Pollard has recorded probably 2,000 songs in the last twenty years and some 100 full length albums, and The Motel Beds seem to be sticking with this method of madness.

Photos by Brooke Medlin
Dumb Gold will have you listing influences and signposts of rock pretty rapidly. In the first few spins I caught Pollard's act, T. Rex, The Flaming Groovies, Pink Floyd, Graham Parker & The Rumour, and The New York Dolls, to name a few. They wear these influences on their sleeves as they whack out melody after melody, semi-arbitrarily tossed off genius guitar fills, and the psycho-kinetic flailing of drummer Ian Kaplan. Lead singer P. J. Paslosky sounds as if he never let the transistor radio leave his ear as a child, and is helplessly and hopelessly lost in A.M. radio pop reverie. Tommy Cooper's churning rhythm guitars keep things in finely honed focus, while Darryl Robbins unleashes torrent after torrent of guitar leads and fills that suggest he's either too smart for the riff, or he's pulling our legs with his subtle six string sophistry. Then there's bassist/background vocalist Tod Weidner - he came late to the band, and his fluid playing, and pop informed harmonies have elevated the band significantly in terms of professionalism and focus. If you blink with this bunch you're liable to miss another growth spurt.

I mentioned earlier that the rock bands of Dayton, Ohio like to leave some rough edges - well, that's certainly true with this bunch. There's a fine line with this bunch between genius and not wishing to appear to give too much of a shit about either their performances, or their tunes. They don't take themselves too seriously as they toss back cold beers and casually pop out pop nuggets that have you shaking your head and wondering how they do it. I'd love to see what they could do with an actual budget and some serious homework. This record sounds like they threw up the microphones and had at it - there's not a lot of high science going on here. This is set them up and knock them out power pop.

Every song on the record delivers something new and different. I'm not going to give a track by track play by play - I'm going to let you do that. The quality ratio is uniformly high enough for me to say that when you buy this record, you will be finely rewarded, and you will realize that if every rock band out there delivered the goods like this, we wouldn't be buying tracks one at a time. This is complicated pop at its indie best. Nearly the entire album suggests an intriguing blend of childhood innocence and adult themes that will have you wondering what dark alleys of the soul these guys navigate when the ply their trade. There is an almost calliope kind of happy-go-lucky, whimsical nature to many of Paslosky's lyrics and melodies, but then things always seems to go a bit David Lynch. Fascinating stuff.

Dumb Gold is another large leap forward for this group of Midwestern malcontents, and if they can continue to get invited to shindigs like SXSW, and CMJ, and get out of Dayton and do some serious gigging, they might end up succeeding in the race to rock stardom.

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