J. Roddy Walston & the Business - ‘Destroyers Of The Soft Life’ (ATO Records) Print
Written by Gerald Stansbury   
Friday, 06 October 2017 04:20

JRoddyCover 72 400I have been looking forward to this album since I first saw it receive a release date listing. I became a fan with their previous album ‘Essential Tremors’, which showcased a rock band laying out an increasingly diverse palette of styles that maintained their identity. I immediately worked back through their previous two releases. The band has taken a few years to put this album together, and it was definitely worth the wait. I know there will be some people disgruntled that it is not as raw as their previous albums, but it sounds incredible. To me, it sounds like the band made great use of their recording budget on their fourth album.

 

Let’s start with what disappointed me about this album - there are only ten songs. Now, that I have that out of the way; let’s look at the songs on here. ‘You Know Me Better’ was one of the songs released prior to the release of the album. The smoother production is immediately apparent, but this song immediately lays the groundwork for a diverse album. J. Roddy Walston’s piano is the first thing heard as the song builds momentum with a sense of urgency apparent in Walston’s vocal. The song continues to add additional layers with some raw distorted guitar feedback helping paint the picture.

 

‘Blade of Truth’ slightly slows the pace and brings to mind a word that I thought of often when listening to this album: timeless. Parts of this song remind me of a rock song from the 60’s with a big hook, but there is also something to this that screams it is totally new and not rooted anywhere other than the present. ‘Numbers’ begins with a cool guitar riff that leads into a catchy straight forward rock song. After the simple chorus of ‘Blade of Truth,’ ‘Numbers’ presents a myriad of lyrical twists throughout the hook which become hooked in the brain with repeated listens. I caught myself initially humming the chorus in my head after the first listen, and the words have filled in over repeat listens.

 

‘Way and Means’ is another quieter number when it opens with Walston’s vocal hovering over the guitar for the first 30 seconds or so until the band joins the party. It becomes apparent by now that the primal ‘rawk’ the band captured on their first couple of albums has been shifted on this album. The band has incorporated additional influences over the years and is pushing itself into new directions. The restrained ‘Heart is Free’ further illustrating this progression as the band goes largely acoustic with excellent vocals by the band being front and center. I will be curious to see if this one makes the live set and where in the setlist it will fit.

 

The band continues past the midway point with the monster slow rocker ‘I Called You,’ which is perhaps my favorite song on the album. The southern ballad starts and slowly builds to the first chorus after almost 90 seconds. Walston again provides a chorus that is delightfully wordy. Once again, the band may see a shift in some of their fans as this is a radio ready song which will likely bring in some casual fans.

 

‘The Waiting’ immediately started some controversy for the record when it was released as it sounds straight out of the rock mainstream on first listen. Repeated listens have me loving the song more with each listen. The music through the verse and how it is arranged actually reminds me a bit of what U2 did with “Where the Streets Have No Name.’ The chorus is huge though, and the lyrics are powerful. The live versions I have heard online have sounded excellent and increase the rawness that might be missing for some on the studio version. This song has taken up residency in my head over the past week. ‘Bad Habits’ is a fairly straight forward rock song that is enjoyable, but I would have welcomed some louder guitar here.

 

 

As the band reaches its final one-two punch, ‘Bleed Out’ brings in the Walston punch of the past with a frantic chorus. The band showcases its talent throughout this one, which will likely be a song long-time fans gravitate to over the first few listens. The finale ‘Burn Black’ embraces all of the sounds that have come across earlier on the album with more brilliant lyrics, a strong hook in the chorus, acoustic touches, and an assortment of electric guitars.

 

The production work of Phil Ek is extremely well done in my opinion as I think it matches the songs that the band brought to this record. If they had made a raw southern rock record, this style might not have been as effective due to its radio friendly sound. Walston, Billy Gordon (guitar), Logan Davis (bass) and Steve Colmus (drums) shine on this album, and I am sure they already knew that there would be mixed reactions to it. For me, it seems like the natural progression of the band given what they had done with the diverseness of ‘Essential Tremors.’ I would not be surprised if they follow this up with another album that pushes forward with what they have done here or a harder edged album that would bring the fans they pick up with this record back to the band’s primal roots.

 

While I don’t have this in my “Album of the Year” contenders at this point, I have a feeling that this album is going to climb up my list in the months to come, so I would not be surprised to see it in my Top Ten. I like that there are 10 songs that all essentially go different directions from the same source while remaining J. Roddy Walston & the Business. They have made a timeless rock album that, given a few breaks, could become huge in the mainstream, where people will mistakenly think they are an “overnight success.” Pick it up now so you can sing loudly out of tune to these ten songs - just like me.

 

‘Destroyers Of The Soft Life’ is out now. You can get your copy HERE.

 

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