Apex Manor – The Year of Magical Drinking

January 01, 1970





Considering all that booze has done for Rock & Roll – for
starters, try imagining the catalogs of the Stones, the Replacements, the
Pogues or the Hold Steady without it – it’s hard to find records that repay the
debt without sounding like rehab “shares” or clichéd liquor adverts in the


The key, it seems, is not to be so goddamn obvious; a good
album about alcohol is really about life, only fuzzier. Apex Manor’s Ross
Flournoy was in the throes of a writer’s block and saucing it up pretty good
after the demise of his band, The Broken West, when he answered the call of
Monitor Mix blogger Carrie Brownstein, who challenged her readers to write and
record a song in a weekend.  After
getting the thundering, Matthew Sweet-like power pop of “Under The
Gun” out of his system, Flournoy produced more than two dozen tracks, with
help from Adam Vine.  He brought Andy
Creighton and former Broken West bandmate Brian Whelan on board, and voila, Apex Manor.


The 10 songs on the band’s debut are a strong blend of power
pop, blue-eyed soul and bar rock that celebrates the fun – and tacitly bemoans
the poor decisions — that follow when booze becomes a behavior variable. “There’s
nothing like forgetting who you really are/when you’re four fingers deep in a
mason jar,” Flournoy growls over the buzzing barre chords, keys and propulsive
beats of the superb opening rocker, “Southern Decline.” By the third song, the
narrator and his crutch have morphed into one – “I’m not an easy jar to open,”
Flournoy sings on “I Know These Waters Well” – as the guitars and keys synch up
to rush toward a cathartic tension-release hook that mashes up early Elvis Costello
and Commotions-era Lloyd Cole.


The latter’s early solo records are a decent touchstone for
the late-night loneliness-soul of “My My Mind,” as the background vocals (a
strong suit throughout) shade in the despair with gorgeous “I don’t wanna know”
harmonies. On the slinky “Burn Me Alive,” Flournoy’s falsetto embodies
cocktails-carnality like vintage Afghan Whigs, and the frenetic Ted Leo-pace of
“Teenage Blood” succinctly bottles the energy of a Friday night heat in full
bloom: the liquor quickening your step and straightening your spine with Dutch


The pace slackens too often in the second half of the
record, where a couple of tracks – “Elemental Ways of Speaking,” another
Commotions-flavored number, and the meandering ballad “Holly Roller” – don’t
prove nearly as inspired as the ones surrounding them. But as a rock & roll
reminder of Homer Simpson’s infamous toast — “To alcohol! The cause of, and
solution to, all of life’s problems!” – and all that makes booze and music so
damn compatible, The Year of Magical
is great company.


DOWNLOAD: “Southern Decline” “Burn Me Alive” “The Party Line” BY JOHN SCHACHT

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