The Upshot: Jersey band produced by Mitch Easter, offering independent rock with purpose, stressing intelligent songwriting and solid musicianship, and raising goose bumps in just the right measure. The band’s second release, this guitar and voice-focused home-run incorporates all that makes independent music gloriously free of tags and categorization – because it’s only goal is to take you prisoner. Nothing matters more.
BY ERIC THOM
For those who prefer real meat on the bones of their power pop, look no further than this second release by under-the-radar, Jersey-based band, Waiting For Henry. Real meat, cured, seasoned and prepared with love by no less than Mitch Easter, fans of whom know exactly how much he can lend to anything he touches.
Yet, as even Mitch would say, any producer can only polish talent that already exists and Waiting for Henry has it in spades. Spades. Each of the 12 tracks on Town Called Patience stirs the listener in record time with serious hooks, harmonies and enough tough and/or melodic guitar sounds to stir your inner rock star. Influences abound. Early Matthew Sweet, R.E.M. and Replacements come to mind – yet these solid-rocking mini masterpieces have little else to do with anything beyond the musical vision shared by lead vocalists/guitarists Dave Slomin and David Ashdown, bassist Mike Chun and drummer Rob Draghi (give or take Easter’s touches). Rich vocals distinguish each track and the band offers somewhat of a dual personality through its two main singers. Slomin and Ashdown champion their own compositions from two slightly different perspectives, lending the band a wider personality.
Compare Slomin’s tough, yet melodic paean to witnessing a Steve Wynn/Gutterball show in Copenhagen. Fast and furious guitar work, replete with rich harmonies, the song is further charged by Slomin’s smooth, comparably commercial-friendly voice that fits the track perfectly. Contrast this with Ashdown’s “Hangnail” – a raspy-sounding recollection of a spent relationship, the singer sounding somewhat hung-over, softened and sweetened by the song’s waltz-like pace and full-on Eagles-esque harmonies, painted against a grey backdrop of pain-gone-by. These are not competing influences to the band’s sound. Indeed, the two mesh perfectly across each carefully-crafted original making it a challenge to identify who’s doing what – the ultimate in band statements. Slomin’s delicious “Matter Of Time” might be the disc’s high point based on its unerring ability to burrow into your brain and play back for weeks to come. Or Ashdown’s rough ’n’ ready “Palms”, its battered, Westerberg-edged acoustic intro giving way to a chorus that turns a negative thought into a celebratory anthem, complete with vibes. The vibrant “Parsippany” gallops forward with a pop-like sense of urgency that transforms the name of a forgettable New Jersey town into an epic recollection of something more special, buttressed against a ringing, stinging wall of aggressive guitars and bank of harmonies. Likewise, “Could It Be” sits Ashdown’s raggedy vocal atop smooth guitars, Chun’s plucky bass and those hard-selling backup vocals. Like “Flipcock” before it, the title track’s upbeat attack recalls both Tommy Keene, if not the Bodeans, for each song’s ability to generate a more reflective, less aggressive perspective as vocals become lead instruments. Ashdown’s “Angel On The Run” is pure rock, an impassioned tribute to a fallen friend that brings out the animal in the band. “Wrong” is simply a hard-working rock track built around distant B3 and still-fiery, glistening guitars, Slomin’s addictive voice and a cascading chorus making the most of the band’s stand-out harmonic powers. Closing with the gentler, kinder approach of “In The End”, there’s little left to say and do – except marvel at Waiting For Henry’s ability to mine all the tenets of a category of music that, quite simply, remains timeless in its appeal.
Funny how Waiting for Henry has been categorized as alt-country, Americana roots-rock – even twangy country-rock. I simply don’t hear it. These are 12 spirited, power-pop masterstrokes conjuring a dark edge, yet tempered by a world-weary maturity to keep things hopeful and upbeat. Propelled by the raw energy of chiming and/or crunching guitars, a taut rhythm section, near-perfect vocals and sky-high harmonies, Waiting For Henry seems more than capable at holding forth the age-old promise and potential of Saturday nights, broken hearts and – in this case – making the most of life.
DOWNLOAD: “Musconetong,” “Matter of Time”