When Alex & the Anders first CD, Live (and under the influence), in the fall of 2009, was a good snapshot of a band that was still developing. The group had quickly built a loyal following with its raucous live shows and party-band persona.
Another year and a half of playing live shows hasn't really changed that much: the performances are just a rowdy as ever, with the band leading a celebration amongst its fans and any other unsuspecting bar patrons. What has changed, however, is the delivery -- at least to some degree.
The band, led by namesake Alex Munson, has become much tighter knit since the release of the live disc. Granted, a particularly boisterous and inebriated evening might see the band play fast and loose with the songs and set list, but there's no denying the act has finally found its identity and is playing to all its strengths.
One quick spin of the band's new studio album tells the story.
The fact that the band is far tighter and focused in its playing is immediately apparent. Blake Jarman on drums and Tucker Carter on bass prove to be an invaluable asset to The Anders as a great tag team and rhythm section that truly holds the sound together. Tomas Burkhart's harmonica playing takes the spotlight in many places, filling much of the space and giving the group sits very distinct sound.
More importantly, however, the studio recordings show just how much Munson's songwriting has grown, even when singing what at first seem like silly drinking songs. If you listen a little closer, however, the true spirit of the band simmers just under the surface and reveals itself amidst the controlled chaos.
You see, from my experience, you can't just meet with one member of the band -- it's all or nothing. Whether it's meeting for a beer and short chat, discussing the new record, or just randomly running into one of the musicians at a show; if you see one of them, the others are sure to appear shortly.
The musicians may not be joined at the hip, but this is definitely a tight knit brotherhood. At times, it's hard to tell if the members are related by blood or fraternity as they complete each other's sentences and innately pick up a though where the other left off, usually without pause.
That connection and chemistry comes through loud and clear on the new album, which the band recorded at home and self-produced. Instead of sounding self-produced, however, the groups' singular vision (and Jarman's hand in mixing) yielded a focused representation of the band that lets each member both stand out at the appropriate times and melt into the unit in others. Most impressive is the fact that the band was able to catch its live energy and spirit, yet pull off and incredibly well produced recording without sterilizing the songs in the process.
Four songs carry over form the live EP, but each one gets a fresh treatment, which adds to the tune instead of making it feel recycled. "Fixing You" immediately stood out to my ears, with an added organ in the background and a clean mix. Elsewhere, and added violin line from Karen Naifeh-Harmon (of Larkin) or piano part, courtesy of GHOSTS' Garrett Weindorf (on "Desert Song") breathe a new life and energy into the arrangements.
Perhaps most telling, however, is the production on "Boom Boom." Although it can pass you by upon first listen, the song steps out of the shadows when listening through the entire disc, both because of the nearly haunting, reverb soaked guitar and harmonica lines and the darker lyrics. By the time the background vocals kick in and lead to an extended breakdown to close the song, you're being pulled into another dimension of Alex & the Anders.
"The biggest part we want to get across is this: A lot of serious shit has happened in the last few years and we've been through a lot," Munson said. Two members have gotten married, while another divorced and one of Munson's close friends committed suicide. "The point is you've got to make it through that somehow. Have a good time, surround yourself with good friends and have some fun."
And that's the true spirit that comes across in a band that's finally settling into its true identity. Sure, there's a party involved and that revelry will likely never fall far from the band's wake. There's a brotherhood here, however, and it comes through in everything from the subtleties of the lyrics to the way the members interact.
Of course, there's always room for silliness and that comes across as well in the closing track, "Looking for the Drumsticks." Mostly, though, the album reveals a band that's growing into the next stage of its career. Instead of coming off as an excuse to party, the party has become a by-product of the band's hard work.
Of course, the party will still be there, especially when the band celebrates the release of its new disc, Bar Punk Blues -- a title taken from Tucker Carter's pronouncement of the band's style -- at Crystal Pistol this Friday night, June 3. There is no cover charge and GHOSTS will open the show. That pairing all but guarantees Weindorf will sit in on "Desert Song," which is only one of the special appearances planned.
The band's infamous "beer-bong guitar" will be coming off hiatus for the show and additional guests are a possibility. Bar Punk Blues will also be available for on $5 at this show only, so make sure and join the revelry and find out why Alex & the Anders has become one of Tulsa's favorite live acts.
With Memorial Day past, that means summer is unofficially here. The concert calendar may be sporadic, but it's no lea busy than the spring season we just sprinted through. Now that everyone is back from the lake, the weekend's roster is packed once again and we've got the week's highlights to get you started.
• Thursday, June 2 -- A safe bet on the first Thursday of the month is always a dose of Celtic folk with Cairde na Gael at Arnie's. If you're looking for something a little more aggressive, metal act Kylesa arrives at The Marquee with Hour of 13 or Reverb hosts a night of punk with The Hammercocks, Dirty Mugs and The Decomposed.
• Friday, June 3 -- Of course, there's the aforementioned Alex & the Anders CD release party at Crystal Pistol with GHOSTS on Friday, but you also can't go wrong with Steve Pryor at Arnie's or Dustin & Jesse's Higher Education at Hunt Club. Country legend Ray Price plays River Spirit Events Center to kick off the weekend as well, but you best bet will either be Ha Ha Tonka at Mercury Lounge or newcomers R.L. Jones with Glister for a night of rock at Downtown Lounge.
• Saturday, June 4 -- Saturday night is relatively quiet, making Steve Pryor at Arnie's or RadioRadio at Hunt Club a good opportunity to chill with some great tunes. Meanwhile, metal fans won't want to miss Fear Factory playing The Marquee with Pinhead, Hardtop for Kennedy, Native War, Art of Dying and Koma Therapy at The Marquee. The show flying under the radar this weekend, however, is Oil Boom with Quaker City Nighthawks at The Treehouse.
The rest of the week is relatively quiet, but wraps up with a couple of shows that risk being overlooked, namely...
• Tuesday, June 7 -- Project 86 celebrates its 15th anniversary with a tour that stops at The Marquee and includes Children 18:3, Write This Down and Day of Vengeance opening.
• Wednesday, June 8 -- The Cain's Ballroom floor will be put to good use as indie dance rock act Ratatat returns with Despot and E-Rock opening the show.
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