Detroit band brings it, and then some, on their long-playing debut. More, please.
BY FRED MILLS
Eddie Baranek is no slacker; as frontman for much-revered Motor City outfit The Sights, he spearheaded a singular garage/pop/punk vision that still resonates to this day via five blistering long-players issued between 1999 and 2012. One of yours truly’s high points during my 1 1/2 decades of attending SXSW in Austin each March was getting to hang with Eddie and his gang at the 2013 BLURT day party, held at the Ginger Man venue. Sadly, as things happen, the band called it quits the following year, but all former members can still rest assured that their efforts definitely did not go unappreciated.
Baranek, however, remains a scrapper—or, more accurate, a Scrapper, heading up his latest band The Scrappers. Not totally unlike another well-known Detroiter, Jack White—currently a Nashville denizen, of course—Baranek has never really settled into a singular “style,” preferring instead to let his muse roam at will and then let circumstances and settings dictate what ultimately gets picked up by the mic.
Ergo, The Scrappers—featuring Baranek on vocals, guitar, and piano; plus Dave Lawson on vocals/bass, Ben Luckett on drums, and Pete Ballard on pedal steel (both Lawson and Ballard previously played with Baranek in The Sights)—has an offhand, let’s-just-do-this vibe that ropes in certain garage-y elements while maintaining a distinctive country-meets-pubrock-meets-Southern-pop sound. Baranek himself told me that these days he’s thinking along lines of “sorta rooftop Beatles, kinda Big Star, sometimes Nick Lowe/Brinsleys,” and that’s a pretty solid estimation. It comes through loud ‘n’ clear regardless of your choice of sonic format, digital, CD (via Barn Party), or vinyl (on New Fortune)… you can probably guess my choice, and knowing that the wax comes with a download card, well… whattaya waitin’ for?.
The dozen-song album, cut with both Adam Cox (at Hamtramck Sound Studios) and Jim Diamond (at Detroit’s Ghetto Rec0orders), kicks off with “Feel Love,” a slice of Southern country soul highlighted by Baranek’s impossibly sweet falsetto—something that would come through on certain power pop moments the Sights used to serve up, but never quite this prominently—and Ballard’s mirrored steel lines, both underscored by a subtly muscular, wonderfully agile rhythm section and intermittent, chunky riffs from Baranek. From there the band goes all in, from the Wings/McCartneyesque “Everything’s in Style” and the way-more-than-kinda Big Star vibe of “Seem to Act Surprised” (which, I must state, is not so much in what might be, for some, a presumed Alex Chilton vein; rather, it’s pure Chris Bell); to a blazingly glammy slice of ‘70s power pop, “Wonder Where I Even Start” (think: that era’s Sunset Strip outfits) and shuffley, countryish ballad “Since I Met You,” which conjures at times Roy Orbison’s vintage weepers (here, that Baranek voice, along with Ballard’s supple steel, positively seduces).
The Scrappers go out the way they came in—scrappin’—with defiant thumper “Don’t Hold Your Breath,” essentially a hi-nrg, full-rawk summation of everything that’s gone down during the 11 prior numbers. At precisely the point where the listener’s twitching wrists start hoisting the air maracas, the band brings in the fuckin’ maracas. Which I’d call, right on the fuckin’ mark. As is the entire record. It’s just what I needed, that’s for sure.
TRACK DOWN THESE TRACKS: “Wonder Where I Even Start,” “Seem to Act Surprised,” “Feel Love”