FAMILY GUYS: Minus the masturbatory solos.
The Seacoast Scene can lay claim to a hotbed of roots rock, so when two of its leading members, Martin England and Jon Nolan, agree on the next big band, you might want to pay attention even if you don’t get south to Portsmouth very often. England, frontman for Pondering Judd and writing for the Seacoast Spotlight, and Nolan, former frontman for Say Zuzu who’s gone out on his own and writing for the Wire, both recently raved about the Molenes, an alt-country outfit who managed to stay pretty far under the radar until releasing their debut full-length, This Car is Big, this past Tuesday.
I can see where they’re coming from.
The Molenes are a story you’ve heard before in these parts: talented musicians with families write melodic/rockin’ tunes fit for Americana radio — with Dave Hunter playing the part of the guy who used to be in a signed band before moving to New England and starting a band in a place he liked to live (a la the Coming Grass’ Nate Schrock or Twin Engines’ Jim Wallerstein), with former Wow rhythm section Andrew Russell (also a Press Herald editor) and Andy Beale, and Smoke Up Johnny founder Thomas Ferry forming the local-pro supporting cast.
Hunter did the Top of the Pops thing in England with Drugstore, sharing the Go-Discs! label with Billy Bragg in the trio started by singer Isabel Monteiro. Allmusic.com says the band moved from a thrash beginning to a distortion finish over the course of three albums. Disappointingly, Hunter isn’t actually mentioned in the online bio, possibly because he didn’t see the end, leaving to do his own thing and becoming editor of The Guitar Magazine. (Through the wonder of the Web, I’m able to really enjoy his piece on Dave Davies’s getting his legendary guitar sound for “You Really Got Me” by hacking up a cheap amp with a razor blade.)
That led to a gig writing guitar instruction books and an eventual move to Portsmouth a couple years back, and there aren’t too many places better for slapping together a good band to play the music you’ve been writing. As you might expect, in Hunter’s case that songwriting is pretty heavy on the guitar, but those of you expecting Satriani can rest easy. Generally, the Molenes mine the now-established alt-country canon, with some bluesy rock thrown in for good measure.
That means we’re spared masturbatory solos, but there’s plenty of space for Hunter to show off with trills and turnarounds and bottom-heavy solos between lots of bridges and final choruses. His playing doesn’t disappoint high expectations, either, with lots of interesting phrasings and chords, but all snugly fit into the songs they’re supposed to be supporting. His punctuations in the early part of “Brand New Yesterday” are a great contrast to the distorted slide guitar lead in the bridge. The minor-inflected lap steel that opens “Prosperity Town” is nice foil for the “Bolero” snare Beale supplies and calls to mind the instrumental “Ride” on Harpswell Sound’s Let’s Go Anyway. On “Wheels on the Ground” and “Two Doors Down,” Hunter shows an appreciation for what the acoustic can do, too.