BY FRED MILLS
Though this Durham, NC, combo has undergone a veritable revolving-door lineup shuffle since surfacing on the Triangle (Chapel Hill/Durham/Raleigh) scene a few years ago, and the group’s new album Neighborhood Veins does boast sundry regional talents culled from the likes of the Rosebuds, Bowerbirds and Old Ceremony, there’s no question that it remains the steadfast musical vision of Mr. Reid Johnson. He’s a soaring/swooping-throated proselytizer capable of whipping up the congregation—as he did not long ago at the annual Hopscotch Musical Festival, knocking yours truly out with his natural charisma and pure rock ‘n’ roll panache—but also aiming to get under the skins of listeners with his deep-hook melodies.
There’s a Spector-ish vibe fully in play on the album, as evidenced on such numbers as echo-chamber country-rock gem “Flames,” thrashy thumper “Trap,” waltz-time ballad “Floodlights and Ghosts” and ‘50s pop pastiche “Still In Love” (check the falsetto!). That widescreen, cinematic element becomes a signature over the course of the 12-song record, and it’s telling that right from the get-go, on opening track “It Won’t Matter” one receives sonic images ranging from Roy Orbison to the Righteous Brothers to the Velvet Underground. Choogle on, brother Reid.
That said, Neighborhood Veins is hardly a straightforward or straitlaced pop platter. Subversion is key: how else to explain the jungle throb of “Feel Better” or the experimental noise collage that is the title track? In concert, the band purposefully mashes up all these elements, and in the final estimation, Schooner comes across as one of the most unclassifiable yet delightful outfits I’ve had the pleasure to experience both firsthand and from afar—via this album—since moving to the Triangle a year and a half ago.
Incidentally: seek out the vinyl edition of the record. I’ve A-B’d it with the CD, and there’s no comparison, sonically. If you act quick, you might be able to score a blue wax platter, too.
DOWNLOAD: “It Won’t Matter,” “Still In Love,” “Feel Better”