Monday, October 22, 2012

Robthebank - Spoken Codes: Great Rock Spoken Here

"Life is in the hours that we waste, Love is in the words that we don't say." ~ Spoken Codes
Robthebank recorded their first album over ten years ago - it got backburnered by life. Guitarist and songwriter Nate Farley got an offer he couldn't refuse, and joined an army called Guided By Voices, and went off to see the world. Thank Christ they persevered to make it to the second - Spoken Codes is great rock, and the world would be way for the worse without it.

Comanche almost gave me whiplash when it blasted out of my ancient Custom Shop Radio Shack speakers - these overweight monoliths can take a wallop, but this band damn near broke this bank. It's a minute long warning shot over the bow that let's you know that you're in for an hour or so of ripping, infectious rock.

I've been spinning Spoken Codes for a few weeks now, and I haven't been quite able to let the title track get out of my consciousness. Farley's time as Robert Pollard's sergeant-at-arms was no waste - this has hooks that grab and don't let go, and lead singer Heather Newkirk and Farley sing this as if their lives depended upon it. This has hit written all over it.

Drummer Craigo Nichols takes this record, and mauls it, making it go from good to great in the process. Hypocritic Oath is another hypnotic slice of pop wonder, but Nichols and bassist Duane Hart take this and run with it - Hart's bass throbs and I congratulate producer Darryl Robbins on capturing this madness with such stunning clarity.

Bricks has Farley and Newkirk throwing lines back and forth with great aplomp as the guitarist's tube soaked Tele chases Hart's bassline, taking it over as the pre-chorus explodes into full blown anthemic rock. Farley's many years of experience reveal themselves in every guitar track on the record - he works the accelerator like a Formula One champ, slowing down for the curves but turning on the afterburners for the straightaways.

The band is much sleeker than your every day rock outfit. The beat and tempo of BFGU is a masterpiece of push-pull give and take. It's over before you know it, and you instantly reach to repeat it. Farley has matured into a great somgwriter in his own right, and every tune on this record displays just that.

The End of Time may be on nigh, but with rock like this it ain't a bad trip. The rhythmic thrusting on this menu is never the same twice, and it's the best amusement park in town.

I'm a sap for cinematic rock - So Sick sounds like the soundtrack of a trip we lived for years here in Dayton. Yeah, I gotta cop that I'm friends with this lot, and we know how this town gets. No one has so captured the vibe of a city since Dale Bozzio described in Missing Persons's Walking In LA. Farley should consider a novel - maybe better yet, a memoir. The guy can write.

Heather Newkirk narrates these tunes with a thousand megatons of rock star fire power. She's perfect in her role - she belts, she purrs, she's bawdy, then demure. Maybe the finest female rock chanteuse since Debbie Harry. Her duets with Farley are the first time I can remember that rock got hip to the male/female vocal couplings that made cool old country make sense. In The Future We'll Be History and I'm Saving Up are two more textbook examples of modern pop perfection. Goddamn, these guys are good.

I Like You Ugly is a twisted relationship tune that reveals the darkside of love and life. Ike and Tina should have done duets like this - at least we have it now. Nichols's precision drumming keeps this one between the ditches as the singers's vitriol threatens to take this one of the road. Artful.

Double time power pop propels Sad Sack Sam, and it's another wild ride. This is punk grown up - everyone learned how to play, how to write, and how to stay in tune. Even as Newkirks screaming reaches for the stratosphere, she stays true. Craigo Nichols has turned in maybe the finest drum performance on a rock album for 2012.

Farley plays great guitar all over Roast The Host, and if you take the time to learn this one you'll know about all you really need to know about playing for the song - with this record he steps into the rarified air space shared by guys like Mike Campbell and Peter Buck. The perfect accompaniment - and that ain't easy, Keith invented it, and Farley listened.

Spin Out gets spit out, and it rocks like a panzer division on rocket fuel. The band kicks it across the desert and Newkirk rides over the top like Rommel with a good cause behind him.

I haven't been this happy with a power punk record since The Dictators invented the genre in 1975. Too Bright wraps it up with a quick blast that goes away too soon, and I find myself hitting repeat once again.

Robthebank went to the tables at Monte Carlo and won with this slab - it's a fantastic slice of powerful, pop infused, rebel rock. It starts in the garage, goes to Nashville, takes some time in London and makes it back to the Midwest in time to realize that rock grew up, but it didn't die - it's still rockin'.

Nate Farley has been a great guitar player and straight up rockstar for years - he's become a great songwriter, Heather Newkirk was born to belt out high octane rock. The rhythm section of Duane Hart and Craigo Nichols is top notch - if these bunch can't make it, no one should. Robthebank is a superb outing, buy it today.

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