The Company Band: Sound Investments

Shitloads of cash...After issuing their IPO in the form of the recently-vinylized Sign Here, Here and Here EP (on CD through the band?s own Venture Capital Records in 2008), the five-piece supergroup The Company Band return with a change in lineup and general approach on their self-titled debut full-length. The Company Band, produced by Andrew Alekel (Foo Fighters) with additional tracking by J. Robbins (Clutch), is 10 tracks of straightforward pop songwriting that is tight and given an edge because of the players involved. And before this review goes any further, it?s probably best to list them:

Neil Fallon (Clutch): Vocals
James A. Rota
(Fireball Ministry): Guitar
Dave Bone
(The Company Band): Guitar
Brad Davis
(Fu Manchu): Bass
Jess Margera
(CKY): Drums

Davis is new to the band as a replacement for Jason Diamond of New York?s Puny Human, and he makes his presence felt throughout as a suitable accompaniment to Margera?s drumming ? though quite frankly neither of them is down for much fancytalk musically. The Company Band depart from the impression they gave on the four tracks of their prior EP by keeping the stoner level low, pushing the riff all the same but angling the style of the writing toward classic and southern rock with some meaty grooves thrown in the verses and choruses.

Congratulations, you're a company man.The change in approach alluded to above is immediate with opener ?Zombie Barricades,? a song that lets listeners know right away The Company Band will not necessarily be spending the next nine tracks on corporate parody. Musically it does well to set up the structural focus of the album, and even if there are songs that might have made stronger starting points, I?m not entirely sure where else ?Zombie Barricades? would fit other than up front. Contrasting it with the start-stop groove of ?It?s a Confusing World,? on which Rota and Bone seem to enjoy playing at a Tim Sult style, it works appropriately enough. Fallon?s vocals and lyrics set it up as a well-chosen single.

?Djinn and Pentatonic? — say it out loud — is the first album highlight, despite following a similar riff ideology and ultimately coming across like Beale Street Clutch. One of three songs on The Company Band that goes past four minutes in length (the rest are between three and four and none are over five), there?s a good chance it?s the song you?ll be singing to yourself after your first listen. By the time it?s over and the band moves on to the more southern ?Inline Six,? it?s clear the pop writing formula already present is going to make up the crux of the record. The rest is just waiting to see if they veer from it, and if so, by how much.

What will hopefully be a single at some point and an immediate novelty favorite, ?Hot Topic Woman? is a hilarious narrative from Fallon featuring lines like, ?Hot Topic woman, dark and mean/Pretend that you don?t see me,? and ?Get with the program/I?m the customer.? Musically it keeps a balance between blues and classic rock and is clearly placed in the middle for a reason.

Imagining a break between sides A and B, the fade-in of ?All?s Well in Milton-Keynes? has an even groovier effect. Margera and Davis introduce the song, but despite it being the longest on The Company Band at 4:53, it?s not long before Bone, Rota and Fallon join the rhythm section and softer, less rocking groove is under way. Reminiscent somewhat of ?Heartache and Misery? from Sign Here, Here and Here, though less depressive, a subtle whisper track and ongoing quality bass work make it a standout.

?Roky Erickson said to me/You can trust acid before the CIA? makes a hell of a chorus, even from a lyrical powerhouse like Fallon, and ?Who Else but Us?? is an example of a song on which the rest of The Company Band simply can?t keep up. In listening, you find yourself waiting for the verse to end so you can get to the good part, and in all likelihood that wasn?t the desired effect. They can?t all be gold. The upbeat riff and drumming that accompany the call and Mr. Rota.response of ?Chaos, destruction and war? that fills the middle of ?CD&W? is suitable redemption.

It should say something that a song called ?Love Means Never Having to Say You?re Ugly? has to languish as the second best title on the album (or does it? A matter of personal preference) to ?Djinn and Tonic,? but in the end the title is the best thing about it anyhow. By this point in the album, The Company Band have given us enough southern riffery that ?Love Means Never Having to Say You?re Ugly? proves forgettable in the long run and serves mostly to make closer ?Lethe Waters? feel slower by comparison. The last of the four-minuters, it?s a decent companion to ?All?s Well in Milton-Keynes? sound-wise, and it?s a decent closer, but doesn?t really go past decent.

It?s probably a good move on the part of The Company Band to drop the corporate gimmick. As much as it made the EP enjoyable on a level beyond the catchiness of the songs, it probably would have fizzled over the course of even this relatively short full-length. Nonetheless, those expecting Clutch-style transcendence because Fallon is fronting are wrong to do so. As much as Rota and Bone prove capable guitarists and Davis and Margera work together as a rhythm section, they simply haven?t been playing together long enough for that kind of musical conversation to take place.

The Company Band rocks. Not more than you?d expect to, but it rocks all the same. Anyone who has found themselves longing for deviance from the ultra-genrefied, nuanced scene in the form of honest to goodness hard rock should take note. They might lean at times toward commercialism, but The Company Band are professionals all the way.

The Company Band on MySpace

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