Feb 262008

Speakeasy, All Your New Favorite Songs

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Artist: Speakeasy
Album: All Your New Favorite Songs
Label: Zarr Records
Release Date: Tuesday, 2008.2.12
Score: 8/10

All Your Favorite Songs, the debut studio LP from Springfield, Missouri quartet Speakeasy, is a funky, busy affair. All of the tracks (which each come individually labeled “explicit” from the Amazon download store, despite fairly inoffensive contents) are energetic and groovy, displaying bold Funk and Rock and Roll roots. Combine this rollocking style with the stellar production work of Pete Matthews and some serious musical talent and the result is a fun, boisterous record.

I have to admit that Speakeasy play in a groove that I have a lot of affection for. They have a rock/funk fusion sound not unlike Steely Dan or The Slip, two bands of which I am a rather devoted fan. That being said, Speakeasy eschew the West Coast Jazz trappings of Steely Dan and the bright, ethereal guitars of The Slip and replace them with crunchy, overdriven melodies and thick, thundering bass lines. The classic fusion energy remains, with all of its attendant complex, driving melodies and funky rhythms. “Already Wanted You”, for instance, features catchy blues/funk bass and guitar lines, with some especially groovy hooks coming from the strings of bassist Reed Herron. Another good example is “Dirty Dishes”, which is a funky, if lyrically semi-sensical (an extended metaphor comparing a lover to a dirty dish), tune with more great bass work, a great guitar solo, and some exceptionally groovy drumming.

Speakeasy’s lyrics tend to be both personal and a bit eccentric. They’re very evocative and direct, largely foregoing cleverness in favor of simple expression. While I have to confess I’m normally a sucker for the glib and the clever, I am charmed by the to-the-point honesty coupled of the lyrics. Especially so when coupled with the passionate, though often rough vocals of singer Shawn Eckels. From the simple sincerity of “cheers to you my friends” (“Bad Apples”) to the honest hyperbole of “Atlas ain’t got shit on you” (“Jimmy”) (which is, by the way, quickly becoming one of my new favorite compliments), Eckels gives the distinct impression of saying not only just what he means but, more importantly, just what he feels.

One thing with which I was impressed was how clean a sound Speakeasy managed to attain, despite the relative busyness of many of their songs. A lot of bands try for the sorts of complex three-part harmonies that Speakeasy uses and wind up just sounding muddled or overly chaotic. Speakeasy, on the other hand, sound tight and professional. This is due largely to the obvious musical talent of the band members, I would imagine, but also partly due to the production work of Pete Matthews. Between the two, the complex, intertwining parts wind up sounding clean and precise, lending a lot of power to what could otherwise be a jumbled mess.

If you like Groove Rock or and of the various genres of Rock Fusion, then All Your New Favorite Songs should definitely be on your list of albums to hear. It probably won’t rewrite the genre, but it’s a sterling example of it. It packs a lot of energy and some truly awesome grooves into a very listenable package.