SETTING A HIGH BAR The Stereo Flys.
You can’t accuse Jeff Beam of lacking ambition. On his second full length, this time as frontman of the Stereo Flys, he tackles a cover of “She’s Not There,” which is a pretty hard win. Are you going to play guitar like Santana? Sing like the Zombies’ Colin Blunstone? And how will the other 10 songs on the album fare next to one of the more important psychedelic rock songs of all time?
Frankly, they’re going to struggle. Nothing on Hello Greetings from a Bunker quite has the same punch, the excellent dynamics of a languid and far-out verse contrasted with a power chorus. But those are pretty high standards.
In large part, the Stereo Flys do a nice job of mining early rock influences and adorning them with contemporary flair; and they choose good material for the album’s relatively lo-fi production values. While the cymbals can be sharp and grating, and the guitar sometimes completely washed out, that seems to fit the seat-of-the-pants arrangement and the exuberant energy that ripples through the album.
Even when they’re droning through the six-minute, dirge-like “You’ve Ruined Me,” the band maintain an intensity that should keep you interested. It’s true that some of these songs seem like they’d be more fun to play stoned and than to listen to sober, but there’s an immediacy that keeps the listener in mind — something Beam has improved upon since his 2007 debut, Mind the Gap.
Part of the album’s charm is supplied by former Sauce/Slurpees member Sam Peisner, whose bass work here can be excellent. In “The Sunshine Factory,” probably the album’s best, Peisner is upbeat and melodic, driving the song forward during the instrumental break so that Beam can get lost and find himself again, with some especially nice subtle accenting. And Peisner does a great aping of Noel Redding while Beam plays a bit of Jimi Hendrix in the sparkling “Kalifornien.” That’s not an easy vibe to pull off.
While Beam still has work to do on his vocal range and timbre, and the songs could use more fire in the chorus, this album is a nice progression for a songwriter and performer who continues to have an intriguing potential.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HELLO GREETINGS FROM A BUNKER | Released by the Stereo Flys | with the Goodnight Process + Planeside + Holy Boys Danger Club | at the Big Easy, in Portland | May 14 |www.thestereoflys.com