Tuesday, 30 June 2015 09:21

LOCAL ALBUM REVIEWS: The Sinatras; Brown Company

Written by  Mark Deming
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Back Catalog:
The Sinatras
Life in Flames
(Leppotone Records, 2009)

Battle Creek may not have been the hub of the alt-rock universe in the mid-1980s, but that’s not to say the Cereal City didn’t produce a handful of worthwhile bands, and one of the very best was the Sinatras.

Featuring Ron Casebeer on guitar and vocals, Karl Knack on bass and vocals, and Scott Stevens on drums, the Sinatras could be concisely described as a loud pop band, not quite punk but sharp enough to pass in dim light, and possessing plenty of sharp, hooky tunes in a variety of styles.

The Sinatras were eager to push the energy into fifth gear on tunes like “The Length” and “Action Party,” ease up on the more contemplative “Bad Neighbor” or “When I Was King,” and ascend to power pop heaven on “You Remind Me of Yellow” and “Gonna Getcha Back.”

But the Sinatras were more than just another guitar-fueled trio that went over well in college towns. There was an unpretentious intelligence and confessional sincerity in their best songs that suggest Paul Westerberg’s beer-infused smarts without sounding as if they’ve ever given the Replacements more than a passing glance.

Life In Flames is a 21-song collection that mines many of the best moments from the band’s sporadic recording career. If ever there was a group that deserves a bigger audience (or at least one outside Western Michigan), it’s the Sinatras. Thankfully you can still buy Life in Flames through popular digital music retailers, suggesting MP3s might not be such a bad thing after all. — Mark Deming

New Release:
Brown Company
Spring 2014 EP
(Bandcamp, 2014)

A band of middle-aged guys who have been banging out various forms of punk rock noise since the 1980’s might not sound like something fresh or challenging, but Brown Company are here to show you that experience can lead to remarkable new ideas.

One of the most unique and compelling bands currently making their home in Kalamazoo, Brown Company features former members of Violent Apathy, King Tammy, Minutes, and Dr. Xeron and the Moogulators, but most of their previous work will only prepare you so much for their ambitious sonic attack.

Suggesting a psychedelic fusion of Hawkwind, Pere Ubu, and Shellac, Brown Company brew their music from atonal clouds of synthesized sound, unrelenting rhythmic structures, crashing drums and sheets of grand-scale guitar. The result is a bracing aural gumbo that pushes at the boundaries of both hard rock and experimental music.

While Brown Company’s music is best experienced in person, the group released a three-song preview of its upcoming album available at browncompany.bandcamp.com. The extended journeys through “Tidal” and “1333” are heady stuff highly recommended to adventurous listeners, while “Edwards” confirms they’re just as potent in smaller doses. A live version of “1333” is also available on Bandcamp, but the digital EP (which, at 33 minutes, is close to an album on most planets) gives a better picture of the scope of their music, which is something discriminating music fans owe to themselves to discover. — Mark Deming

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