Dec 082010

CD release party 12/11 at Green Lantern

By Keith Halladay

The accessibility of advanced digital recording technology to the unsigned musician is a wonderful thing; those four-track cassette demos we made in decades past sounded absolutely terrible, no matter how much those who remember that era like to romanticize it. Nowadays anyone with a couple hundred bucks and a serviceable laptop can create recordings of pristine aural quality, and loop, overdub, and add effects galore.

But just because you own the software doesn’t mean you know what you’re doing with it, as any number of independently produced albums demonstrate. Even in the digital age, there’s really no substitute for a well-equipped studio, skilled engineering, and a producer who knows how to make bands sound the best they possibly can.

Which is precisely what Duane Lundy, working at Lexington’s Shangri-la Studio, has done for Palisades on their new EP Luxury and Riot. Palisades are a three-piece outfit working in a musical vein that manages to recall the early-nineties heyday of post-punk college radio while avoiding its atonal excesses and navel-gazing attitudes; instead there’s a reverence for both noisy guitars and the well-crafted pop song.

What Palisades and Lundy have accomplished on this release is something close to the perfect combination of the raw and the produced: Scott Whiddon’s guitar squawks and swirls without grating, Neil Bell’s drums crackle and pop without getting in the way, and Jason Matuskiewicz’s bass tone has the attack of a Mike Watt solo without losing any warmth. Likewise, Whiddon’s vocals sound close-miked but are never weak or breathy.

None of which says anything about the songwriting, but in that regard Luxury and Riot succeeds as well. The title track begins with shimmering chords (making generous use of the delay pedal) and the sort of propulsive dance rhythm that once made Manchester scenesters wiggle. The guitars drop, and Whiddon sings a wistful, ironic melody reminiscent of J Mascis’ better work. Then to a tension-building descending line and a soaring chorus; this is classic pop-rock writing, and it’s the blueprint for everything on the record.

My favorite track on Luxury and Riot, “What Will Survive of Us,” features local favorite Chico Fellini and dabbles in something like disco psychedelia: the guitars are so thick here that the sound is almost trance-inducing, the melody meanders in the wash, the drums play up-tempo four-on-the-floor, and still somehow it all makes sense. It isn’t joyful music—the lyrics are too mournful for that—but by the end I found myself merrily singing along with the closing harmonies like I was backing up the Lovin’ Spoonful.

This is strong work from a not-well-enough known local band, and you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of the CD at the release party this Saturday night at the Green Lantern.

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