Kurt Baker's admiration for, and knowledge of, pop rock (much of it incredibly obscure) is beyond reproach. And if at times in the past he seemed to be wearing the music he was playing like a costume, it could be forgiven: He was inhabiting a genre, no more than a new "traditional" bluegrass band or the Pubcrawlers dishing Irish punk.
With Brand New Beat, though, the spectrum of bands from which he draws is particularly broad and he's dialed down the irony to really let the catchiness he obviously loves so much to shine through. Damn, it's fun.
His second full-length solo record has throwbacks all over the place — not the least of which is the opening "Hit the Ground," which references the iconic 6gig tune and features a ripping solo from Holy Boys Danger Club guitarist Miek Rodrigue — and half the fun is recognizing a Roy Orbison riff here and an Everly Brothers harmony there. But it's the combination of influences, like the vampy keys solo mashed into the '60s bop of "She's Not Sorry" or '80s space-out that infects the pop-punk of "Weekend Girls," that makes this supremely listenable.
Really, if this record doesn't scream "good time" to you, you're probably an insufferable prick. That's all there is to it.
Nashville producer Wyatt Funderburk definitely deserves kudos for teasing out the various sounds appropriate to Baker's delivery, which shows more range than ever before and plenty of attention to detail. The psychedelic guitar tone that suffuses "She Can Do It All" is particularly delicious and "Qualified" evokes a particular '70s hair-band vibe Baker hasn't done before.
Sure, a modern song with lyrics like "I'll be lonely, I'll be sad, I'll be blue" requires some indulgence, but if you get paired guitar solos in complementing tones at the same time, it eases the time-travel burden. And you probably won't want to come back.
BRAND NEW BEAT | Released by Kurt Baker | on Collector's Club Records, with vinyl from Jolly Ronnie | with Pontiffs + Dee Cracks + Spruce Bringsteen + New Technicians | at the Empire, in Portland | Nov 10 | kurtbakermusic.com
: CD Reviews
, Kurt Baker, Kurt Baker, Holy Boys Danger Club, More