Thursday, November 6, 2008

New Radiant Storm King -- Drinking In the Moonlight (2008)

New Radiant Storm King -- Drinking In The Moonlight (Darla)

I hadn’t heard anything from this veteran band in quite a while, so this album is a pleasant surprise. The King is a classic purveyor of college radio rock. The music isn’t explicitly pop, but it doesn’t burrow into any trendy genre. Instead, the emphasis is on intelligent songwriting with strong melodies. Often, this sort of band might lack some vocal personality, relying on hooks and guitar lines to draw the listener in. Who else falls in this category? Let me give you two examples, Dumptruck and Kingsbury Manx.

The band has two frontmen, for lack of a better term, who share such a common sensibility that they are practically interchangeable. Matt Hunter and Petyon Pinkerton, the latter who is familiar to many as the lead guitarist for Pernice Brothers, have warm voices that fit the low key tunes.

Low key doesn’t mean boring. Far from it. What makes these songs work is the precise interplay between the instruments, particularly Hunter and Pinkerton’s guitars. While many of these songs would probably sound fairly good on a couple of acoustics, the guitarists and the rhythm section really shape them into something really compelling.

Nothing is more compelling than "Eight Steps Closer". This song is a classic example of building tension to a climax. The two lead guitars play tense leads with a wan melody on top. Meanwhile, J.J. O’Connell is in near metronome mode on his drum kit. Eventually, the song moves into a more forceful melody with equally strong guitars. And then it’s back to that prickly feeling. One of the best tracks I’ve heard all year.

It’s followed by "After the After Hours". Here, a reverbed guitar part is offset by some acoustic noodling. The main hook of the song is a series of quickly strummed chords, which abruptly halt. I get the impression that these guys devote a lot time to the underpinnings of these songs, and then figure out the melody and the lyrical thrust. This song is steeped in atmosphere and the band builds on it very effectively.

One song that let’s the melody take the lead is "Fall Prey". It is a piano driven pop song that comes from the same territory as Harry Nilsson and Kevin Tihista. The King constructs the song a bit more loosely, and the tight pop construction of the chorus makes the stretching out of the song more than tolerable.

"Fall Prey" evinces good feelings, and "Islander" is even more cheerful. This song sounds like it was designed to fit between R.E.M. and The Church on a 1985 college radio songlist. The song has a bevy of hooky parts, especially memorable guitar parts. But this band knows how to grab the ear with tempo shifts and rhythm tricks too.

I don’t have enough of the band’s albums to assess where this ranks in the catalog. But if they have better albums than this, it’s incumbent on me to check them out.

1 comment:

Miles said...

I just got this on eMusic on a recommendation from friend Paula Carino (whose album Aquacade you really need to check out, if you haven't already). Anyway, while there were a couple of songs that struck me as lyrically clunky ("Islander"), I liked what I heard, and this was also my first exposure to the band. Also, I too thought of the Church a lot on many tracks. Come to think of it, Kilbey has a lot of lyrical clunkers too, but everything usually sounds so grand that I don't care...