Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Parlor Mob -- And You Were A Crow (2008)

The Parlor Mob -- And You Were A Crow (Roadrunner)

I saw The Parlor Mob earlier this year, opening for Nicole Atkins and the Sea. They are fellow New Jerseyites, but that’s about the only thing the two acts have in common. The Mob took the audience on a 45-minute tour through early-‘70s blues based hard rock. The Mob had it all, from the stalwart rhythm section to the stinging duel lead guitars to the piercing wail of lead singer Mark Melicia, which is very much in the vein of Robert Plant.

If anything, the new album shows off even more Led Zeppelin influence than I saw live. So this isn’t breaking much new ground. Yet I like it. So what separates the Mob from the many Zep clones of the past (do you remember Kingdom Come)?

I think part of it is that these guys have an understanding of the blues underpinnings of these songs. Not that these guys are ready to roll out Robert Johnson or Howlin’ Wolf songs on stage, but they have a better feel than the Zep wannabes of the ‘80s. The other part is that these guys just really rock. Okay, that’s a pretty subjective reason, but it’s my review, not yours.

The songs have the right amount of guts and the right amount of flash. Mixing melodic lead guitar with bashing chords in the chorus, “Everything You’re Breathing For” actually verges on the exact midpoint between Free and Bad Company, with enough of a hook a la the Company, but not as meatheaded. I love the brief guitar solo/instrumental break that seems to come from another song.

If you want vamping and anguished vocals (okay, Melicia is always amped up) with big power chords and big drum rolls, go right to “Bullet”. When the guitars drop out and Melicia squeals out over just the hi hat, “Woman I try, try, try,” it’s 1971 again. The Mob finds a groove here and plays around with it without wearing it out.

The band also can dash off an epic song, showing a bit of dazedness and confusion on the eight-minute plus “Tide of Tears”, while doing the acoustic blues singalong thing at the end of the disc, where such songs belong, on “Can’t Keep No Good Boy Down”, which is an ‘ol’ away from being a Charlie Daniels Band song. Wait, it sounds nothing like CDB, it’s a kiss off song, about a man who’s tired of being with a mean mistreater, but is nice about it: “Hope one day you find a man that will keep you satisfied/have yourself a mess of kids and a real comfortable life.” How diplomatic.

If there is an air of mystery about this band, it’s the obsession with crows. The album title is referenced in the lyrics of the mystic acoustic babbling “When I Was a Orphan” (good acoustic babbling by the way), in the mystic blues shuffle “Angry Young Girl”, Melicia sings, “You’re an eagle but you’re a crow” a dichotomy that is too much for me to comprehend, and this is followed by the choogling “Carnival of Crows”. Better this than Sheryl or Counting.

This is a bit too derivative and the songs not consistently memorable to be great. But it’s a great time. I have no clue where they are going to go. There are worse things than being the best ‘70s hard rock band of 2008. And few better.