Happy Growl 2019
From the dark reaches of the ’80s and out of Wisconsin, unconventional trio take an angst-ridden trip into their psyche.
With their blend of punk spikiness and new-wave spunk this band wouldn’t have looked out of place on the CBGB stage, but there’s a long way between Milwaukee and Manhattan, and the times when non-hardcore acts roamed across the country had passed anyway, so the weirdly named team made local appearances, although their appeal was larger than life – only their lifespan didn’t cross over the 9-months mark. The album-worth material the trinity produced and performed during that term can’t be called premature, though, what with its vitality maintained for 30-odd years. Not for nothing the first disc of “For Kenny” features the collective in their natural habitat, in concert – with a DJ toasting stoking the atmosphere – whereas the second CD features the group’s unexpectedly well-polished studio cuts: that’s the way to experience it all.
Comparing different versions of numbers such as the slick “Cosmopolite’ and the edgy “Alive” which progressed from one environment to the other is tempting – allowing to see how raw delivery electrified songs while stripping them of and delicious subtleties – yet loose ends like “Got A Lot Of Time” or “Stethoscope” reveal reckless rocking and sensual vibes set to serve various purposes. So if rhythmical nuances seem to be removed from live tracks, the vigor more than makes up for it, and there are classic rock influences on many a number here. Surf licks smear the easygoing “Get Away” offering an effervescent escape; vestiges of Diddley beat propel “It Seems Like” to acceptance for the trio’s tight-but-loose interplay to infuse this state with a broader emotional spectrum; the jangle and rumble of “I Can’t Take Another Taste Of This” hark back to the ’60s innocence. Jim Eannelli’s guitar solos may feel simplistic, but on closer inspection his six strings strive for artsy intricacy on “I Can Take It” and a few more pseudo-epics – elevated by vocal harmonies and finely anchored by Andy Cavaluzzi’s bass and Kenny Baldwin’s drums.
Still, it’s alluring depth of “No Refuge” and ominous serenity of “It’s A Beautiful Day” that best reflect their period, the brass-splashed “De Lon Jon” gravitating toward glossy pop and the dry funk of “Take Off Your Clothes” towards David Byrne-esque idiosyncrasy, yet they lack the era’s typical aggro, as the ensemble opted instead for irony on “Waiting For You To Run” where heavy riffs are bared for all to see, and gave “You Got No Taste” jazzy angularity. “Our time won’t come”: this line proved to be prophetic, and there’s no chance of reunion on the strength of “For Kenny” because Baldwin to whom it’s dedicated passed away in 2015. It was necessary to release those tapes: it’s important part of American music history now.