Imagine: Shortly after their gig at Bob’s Country Bunker, Jake, Elwood and the rest of the Blues Brothers trek north and west to the rainy climes of Seattle for the fabled “next show.” Upon arrival they find themselves at Adrian’s Flannel Shack, where they purport to have both kinds of music; grunge and alternative. Hilarity ensues.
If there really was an Adrian’s Flannel Shack, the name on the marquee outside would be All Time High. Fronted by VALIS bassist/vocalist Adrian Makins — who here plays guitar — the band runs through a warming 12 tracks of pop-based heavy alternative rock on their Small Stone debut, Friends in High Places. It’s not actually grunge, thanks largely to the production of the venerable Jack Endino, who does an excellent job of making it sound like Makins, fellow guitarist Sam Williams, bassist Steb Brown and drummer Matt Vandenberghe (also of VALIS and since replaced by Bryan Garfinkle) have showered within the last week.
It needs to be said: Nirvana. There. Now it’s out in the open and we can proceed through the rest of this review without the elephant in the room. A strong Incesticide current runs through “Pollyanna” and “No Mind,” but All Time High’s heavier low end and classic rock tendencies give a richer context to the material than can be summed up in a comparison to any one band. That said, if you were to blindfold me, lock me in a room somewhere without the bio, play “Earthquake Bee” and ask what city the band who wrote it was from, I’d probably say Seattle, even if the bassline toward the end of that song reminds me of “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” by Primus.