A while back, I made reference to an "up and coming" Jackson band called That Scoundrel. Even though the band has only been together since November of last year, it built a quick buzz and signed on with Cody Cox's Jackson label Elegant Trainwreck by April this year. That is light speed in band years.
That Scoundrel plays a brand of riff-heavy hard rock that centers on catchy, distorted guitar riffs and melodic singing that reminds me of Helmet, the seminal '90s hard rockers popular among skaters and polo-shirt fans. While guitar riffs don't normally get me going, when I found myself humming guitar lines while riding home after the first time I heard them play, I knew something was going on with this band.
On July 14, That Scoundrel released its debut album, "Everyone Has Their Something, but Some People's Somethings Are Weirder Than Others." You got all that? I'll refer to it as "Everyone" from here on out.
"Everyone" is a great introduction to what the band is doing at this moment in time, but more importantly, it sets the stage for That Scoundrel to develop into something greater. Even back when I first heard them, I was thinking about "potential." The main reason "Everyone" leaves so much room for growth is because it is so straightforward, which is both a strength and a weakness. The album can get a little repetitive at times, simply because most of the songs are similarly structured. But that is also a positive, in that I hear so many albums that are so schizophrenic that the listener loses his or her base level. Not so here.
For me, the quintessential song on the record is "Draw The Line." It starts out with a lone distortion-heavy riff from guitarist John Schenk that is soon joined by a snare roll from drummer Jen Chesler (gotta love a female drummer). Those base notes build to a crescendo (think "Siamese Dream" from Smashing Pumpkins) to kick the song off proper, prominently featuring bassist and lead singer Adam Barkley's vocals in several points.
While the basic structure of the songs revolves around the riffs and Jen and Adam's rhythms, John's playing is not strictly relegated to riffs. "So" and "Yetisburg" both contain some steady lead work, and the instrumental "Northcrest Drive" features acoustic guitar. Adam lets loose the bass effects from time to time adding extra character to the songs.
My favorite example of musicianship on "Everyone" occurs about half through "Nosedive," when the song slows down and centers for a few measures on a liquidy bass line, a simple backbeat and some almost noodly lead guitar work that ends, in the opinion of this jazz fan, too quickly after a few measures. It is at this point most especially that I wonder about the potential of the band to really branch out as the members become more and more comfortable with each other and start stretching some of the more interesting ideas into new directions and songs.
Since That Scoundrel burst onto the scene this year, the band has played at several big Jackson events and has been exposed to a variety of music fans. I have had a multitude of people, young and old, black and white, whatever, ask me about them—and that makes sense. Its style is not too heavy to be off putting, not too poppy to sound forced, and rough enough around the edges to be real. It sounds like music you would hear on the radio and maybe (gasp!) Like. I think that is a distinct possibility if this band continues on this path.
"Everyone Has Their Something, but Some People's Somethings Are Weirder Than Others" is available at Morningbell Records in Duling Hall (622 Duling Ave., Suite 212, 769-233-7468), on iTunes or online at http://www.amazon.com