Gasfoodlodging are one such band based on the evidence of "Blue Collar Rain" their debut full original material LP. At the forefront is Dave Griffiths the songwriter, vocalist and guitarist of the band who interestingly plays keyboard on some of the tracks and was also involved in some of it's production. This is not a lazy guy we have here.
The LP leads off with a track called "Banging Drum" which contains a somewhat psychedelia feel with it's swirling rhythmic 60's "leslie speaker" type guitar effect, distorted vocal and the occasional nonsensical lyric. "I like to run to the sound of a banging drum" sings Griffiths, I'm not sure what he's actually referring to here, jogging to music maybe? Regardless, it matters none as the chorus soon arrives with its poignant "I like my thrills, my rock & roll thrills". This quickly became one of my favorite tracks off the LP after a couple of plays and it immediately highlights the strength of Griffiths's fine guitar playing capability which I presume is one reason it's the opening track.
The 2nd track takes things down to a crooning level vocally as the chimes of tremolo guitar and haunting keyboard set the scene for the wonderful ballad "Wherever". Griffiths's lyrics really do shine on this track, "From the city and all this neon, from the concrete down to the sea" "from the length of this country, from the sleepy towns to the loud" as he describes the unknown whereabouts of someone precious that has been lost. Again there's some lovely guitar textures on this track, the progressive rock feel of the lead break midway through followed by the haunting repetitive sequence at the end are delightful. Without question a great piece of songwriting and another one of my favorite tracks off the LP.
"Corporate Disease" is up next and the tempo gets fired up with an infectious dose of punk pop. The bass playing here compliments Griffiths's guitar work perfectly and the simplistic lyrics of corporate greed and working class strife would echo many people's opinion on the outrageous class system we live in. Griffiths delivers yet another earnest and splendid vocal and the whole song fuses together really well. A great track with commercial appeal that could sit perfectly on any TV or Film soundtrack that deals with corporate greed and control. The 2011 Kevin Spacey Film, "Margin Call" for example.
The playlist now pulls on the brakes a little and heads back to the musical style of the opening track as the very impressive groove laden "Under the Texas Sun" begins. Once again Griffiths resorts back to his charming laid back vocal technique used on "Wherever" to tell the listener a tale of two lesbian high school friends who fall of the beaten path and end up being involved in a murder in the hot and sultry state of Texas. I'm not sure whether this song is based on true events or not but either way Griffiths delivers a fine vocal and the lyrics of this story telling song work extremely well. There is also quite a lengthy instrumental section midway through where Griffiths plays a beautiful succession of laid back guitar lines that couldn't fit the music any better.
Following on next is the slow indie rock of "Play it from the Heart" that is probably the most commercially appealing track on the LP after "Corporate Disease". Griffiths is a fan of the late American comedian Bill Hicks and on this track he waste's no time in echoing Hick's opinion on the music business. "I've had enough of Taylor Swift and those same old romantic hits" sings Griffiths on the opening line through to "I just like my music played from the heart, after all that's the most important part". This statement is in essence what the music world has constantly suffered from. Industry professionals have had too much control and influence over bands on occasions and what suffers is the sincerity of the music. Griffiths sums up his view on the chorus "I will turn my speakers loud if what you say sticks out from the crowd but I will turn my speakers down if I hear your familiar sound" a deliberate reference to the good bands out there who have something to say musically through to the the ones that have nothing to say of substance. During the final couple of minutes of this song Griffiths brings his fine guitar playing to the forefront as the song dramatically comes to its close.
"We've done alright" enters the playlist frame with it's country rock feel next. Griffiths's choice of guitar chords on this one are wonderful as he leads the bass and drums around from pillar to post musically. The feel good factor of the lyrics are great too "Like a big truck that needs to turn around, I may need to go to some other town, but if there's you and there's me we will be alright". Simple lyrics yet great lyrics for a country rock song like this. I think Griffiths has the mindset of why over complicate things when there's no need to and this mentality most certainly works on his songwriting.
From cowboy boots to the pimp look of the 70's is the next track on the agenda as the funky one chord rap melody of "Another Day Gone" kicks in. Another one of my favorite tracks of this impressive LP. Griffiths leads the listener through a list of events covering the period of 24hrs but with the most important part of the day being "Guitar Time!" Some great humor is on offer here as well "My neighbour comes he's a handsome guy, he's always got a girl that stays at night, I hear that bed go bang bang bang as he plays her songs by the Wu Tang Clan" (The Wu Tang Clan being a hip hop collective from New York if you didn't know who they were). In among all this rapping chaos Griffiths plays some accompanying Keith Richard style phrases in the background that once again fit the song perfectly. This track has such an infectious groove that you may find it hard not to tap your hands or feet especially when this track is cranked up loud through decent speakers. Not sure my own neigbour was too impressed by my antics involving my loud speakers but I am reviewing an LP after all.
"Daniella Delray" is the next track which will most probably have people swaying their hips or tapping feet at their gigs. Just good old fashioned Rock & Roll where the guitar influence of Keith Richards is clear for all to see rhythmically. Griffiths gets out his lyrical pen of humor again as we're now told a story of a sex obsessed office girl who goes through men like lawyers go through paperwork. Some very clever lyrical touches here including " You wouldn't wanna be the wife of a guy who has to work alongside Daniella Delray" No, I don't believe they would be too happy about it either. Griffiths plays a wonderful rockabilly lead guitar break on this track that reminded me of Brian Setzer of The Stray Cats. As the Rolling Stones perfectly put it, "It's only rock & roll but I like it, like it, yes I do". My exact sentiments towards "Daniella Delray".
It's a downbeat turn we take now as things move to a darker place. "Solitudeville" covers the topic of loneliness and how destructive it can be. This is my favorite track off the LP. I could hear the late great Johnny Cash singing this. The mood is set with a slow tempo country theme as haunting reversed guitar lines shimmer over what appears to be piano with a tremolo effect on it. Then the lyrics of Griffiths kick in and what outstanding lyrics there are. "Have you got a whole load of friends, then you're luckier than I, I'm the shadow that lays in this place from morning to noon to the night" "Loneliness is a dangerous thing, a serial killer from inside, I wish you luck I truly do, you wouldn't want this in your life". he sings on the first verse. This is a song of real heartbreak and desperation. This won't be everybody's favorite track due to it's subject matter and downbeat musical tone but if you've ever had loneliness enter your life for whatever reason, you will certainly relate to the wonderful lyrical content. To compliment the downbeat theme Griffiths plays some exceptional lead guitar riffing on this track. You can feel the sadness cut through on every note he plays.
"All for your Country" quickly moves the music back to uptempo and is the next track on the LP. It's now back to good old fashioned rock & roll again with Griffiths walking us through a song of extreme sarcasm. It could have been called "Are we really doing our bit for the country?". After all do people who rob banks and shoplifters really have their country's best interest at heart? I think not. Although Griffiths does equal the balance out with mention of much more worthwhile occupations such as Paramedics. The music is a regurgitating standard rock & roll sequence. I don't think this song was made to overly focus on the music, this track is all about the lyrics and yet again Griffiths manages to deliver another strong vocal to get his sarcastic message across.
On "Moving Along" the track up next, Griffiths reverts back to his obvious appreciation for artists such as Dylan and Lou Reed. This is a lovely ballad concerning the difficulty we have as humans in moving along in life from situations that aren't working out great. Yet again there are some wonderful lyrical touches here "I lay awake until the morning until the Postman he rattled my door, then sure enough down the hallway, the same old letters I've received before" This is a very busy song guitar wise with many elements of Hendrix rhythmic playing going on underneath the vocal line. While the lead guitar break seems to be a huge pay of respect by Griffiths to the playing of Robbie Robertson from The Band. ( Not Gasfoodlodging the band, but the group who gave us "The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down" who were simply called "The Band")
The penultimate track "See Ya Next Time" is another track where appreciation seems to be back at the appreciation door of Bob Dylan and Lou Reed. A fitting song to follow "Moving Along" whereby the need for escapism continues. "We've hung around like thieves, peered through the curtains but don't like what we see". "We've got this doorbell that nobody rings but I'm not to blame for everything" This track would be in my top 4 favorites of this album without question. Another example of how competent Griffiths is of putting a song together.
"Its good to be back" the final track of "Blue Collar Rain" described as a "bonus track" is a joyous celebration of a return to band activity for Griffiths. "We are Gasfoodlodging, it's true man, we're really coming back!" It's a joyous track full stop for the listener too and the melody and chord sequence take us back on a trip to the joyous 60's.
Griffiths's final words at the end of "It's good to be back" are "You know it makes sense" which I noticed recently seems to be his catchphrase on his band's facebook postings. After listening to "Blue Collar Rain" I have to agree and have no hesitation in saying that it certainly does "make sense" to listen to the music of Griffiths and his band Gasfoodlodging. Griffiths is clearly influenced by the musical sounds of America. Alternative country , blues, rock & roll, it's all in this LP in one shape or another, but clearly he also has a big respect for british bands such as The Rolling Stones who ironically were influenced by the same american music themselves. Griffiths doesn't pretend to be american unless he does it deliberately to raise a smile like on the aforementioned tracks "Another Day Gone" "All for Your Country" and "It's Good to be Back" There is nothing worse than non-american bands putting on that fake southern american accent and thankfully Griffiths certainly avoids doing that. Gasfoodlodging are an alternative band that are heavily influenced by Americana but retain their British characteristics as The Rolling Stones have managed to do since their formation. This LP does not contain professional industry standard production, unsigned bands can rarely afford that luxury. But amateur production has moved on that much over recent years that the average music listener on his morning drive to work with a CD in his player wouldn't be able to tell much difference anyway. "Blue Collar Rain" is a very impressive LP of original songs that contain some splendid songwriting touches. Apparently Griffiths has original songs all lined up for a follow up LP later this year. Once again it's evident that this is not a lazy guy. It's ultimately that kind of dedication and persistence that can potentially open doors and create careers for songwriters and musicians, though realistically the chances of achieving that are extremely rare these days no matter how good your songs are. I wish him and his band the best of luck.
Matt Hayes. © 2017
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