Thursday, February 15, 2018

Album Review: Shiraz Lane - Carnival Days

Among the problems that younger bands have in gaining traction as they come up through the ranks is the fact that older bands refuse to leave the stage. It seems like every few days we're hearing about another bands from the distant past that is either getting back together after decades apart, or are on yet another loop of the nostalgia train. They have name power already, so they suck up all the oxygen in the room, leaving little time for newer bands to get their chance. What's worse, when that band inevitably has their sound compared to one of those old-guard bands, a large number of people will just go back and listen to the name-brand instead.

But we soldier into the future, this time with Shiraz Lane, who are trying to keep up thier growing momentum with this, their second album. Playing into the point I was making, I am rather certain I never heard a note of their music until this album came across my desk. There's way too much music to hear, so bands like Shiraz Lane have a hard time breaking through.

They waste no time in capturing your attention, though. The opening title track doesn't start with a big build up or swelling guitars. No, it starts with a saxophone and jazzy piano, sounding a bit like a rocking cabaret. And unlike when Geoff Tate has tried this sort of thing to spectacularly horrible results, this instrumentation damn well works. There's some of the feeling from My Chemical Romance's "The Black Parade" in there, but the main thrust is the fun atmosphere and the big hooks propelling the album to a massive start. It's not even four minutes of music, but it sounds more epic than a lot of lengthy time-wasters ever could.

Moving past that, the album settles into a more traditional groove, with the songs balancing chunky Slash-styled riffs with big sing-along melodies. There's a real sense of fun to their music, where a crowd watching them in a small club would rather be bouncing and singing along, rather than getting drunk and and using them as a diversion from real life. Rock goes down that latter path too often, so it's nice to hear Shiraz Lane playing up the lighter, enjoyable side of the music.

One of my favorites is "Gotta Be Real", which is a power ballad that has hints of "Summer Breeze" and Hall & Oates, as the saxophone comes back into play. It's a great decision, because it gives the song the vibe of what passed for sensuality in the 80s, and it adds color to an already great song.

Is there anything spectacular about "Carnival Nights"? If I'm being honest, no, there isn't. It doesn't quite reach the upper echelon of melodic bliss, but it's a damn solid album that more than delivers on expectations. While the old guard of bands get the lion's share of the attention, it's bands like Shiraz Lane who are the future of rock and roll. If "Carnival Nights" is any indication, the future looks pretty good.

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