Monday, September 21, 2015

Album Review: Raspberry Park - At Second Glance

There's a joke in an episode of The Simpsons where Grandpa goes to renew his driver's license, and asks if he can just use a picture from the paper that ran under the headline "Old Man Yells At Clouds". In some respects, I feel that way about certain aspects of the music scene, that there are some artists out there who are yelling at the clouds by making music that seems stuck in the past. What that doesn't say is that the fault lies not with the musicians, but with the audience for abandoning certain styles in favor of something 'new' and 'exciting', and leaving behind good ol' fashioned rock and roll.

Raspberry Park is one of those bands, a group that is trying to bring back the AOR/melodic rock sound of yesteryear. The odds of that capturing a wide audience again seem depressingly small, but for those of us who find ourselves fondly remembering when catchy music was allowed to use guitars, it's a welcome development.

"Take It Back" opens things off with some thick guitars that wind through a verse, leading up to a chorus of big vocals that wants you to love it. It's clearly a song that doesn't take itself too seriously, and exists for the communal experience of having fun while listening to music. It's in and out in a short three minutes and change, which give it an energy that's refreshing. By the time the chorus comes around the third time, after the tasteful solo, it already feels like an old friend.

"Alive" opens with a lyric referencing 'Ace Of Spades on the 45', which isn't a totally absurd comparison for this record. While it is nowhere near the frantic rush of dirty energy Motorhead established, "At Second Glance" is a lean and mean record, running through its ten songs in a sprite thirty-four minutes. It knows its limits, and never threatens to overstay its welcome. Feeling like you want an extra song is always better than wishing the record was over before it's done.

But even in that time, the band is able to avoid being a one-trick pony. "Spinning Wheel" uses some rhythmic deviations from the standard 4/4 in its open, and "Sleep With The Lights On" opens with some acoustic guitar playing. Raspberry Park isn't just about playing straight rock all the time, which is not only good from a diversity standpoint, but makes the times when they do stand out from the rest of the songs.

My favorite tracks are "Depending On A Miracle" and "Getaway" which introduce a few balladic details into songs that don't go fully down that road, but do boast the biggest choruses on the record. It's exactly the kind of melodic rock I love. It's at this point that I finally identify something I was hearing, and that's the fact that vocalist Mikkel Bryde's tone bears a strong similarity to House Of Lords' James Christian. Since their record from earlier this year is one of my favorites so far in 2015, that is certainly not a complaint.

The bottom line with "At Second Glance" is that Raspberry Park has made a tight record of melodic rock that will appeal to anyone who likes to yell at clouds and curse the evolution of music. It's a throwback to the old days, and it does what it does very well. It probably isn't going to reinvigorate a scene that has sadly become underground, but it's a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend half an hour. "At Second Glace" is surely worthy of what its title implies. Give it a look or two, and I'm sure you'll find something to smile about.

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