Monday, May 16, 2016

Gotham Theory: Why'd You Break Up With Me?

Sometimes it’s just got to be noisy. Rock n’ roll (especially the kind that traces itself back to the blues) ought to be gritty, loud, and beautifully unkempt. This is how I feel anyway, and it’s good to know that Baltimore boys “Gotham Theory” agree with me. Direct from the bio section of their website they note firsthand:

Gotham Theory is jumping on the train to strip rock back down to the basics. Mixing big riffs and bluesy solos is a sound that may seem familiar based on their influences, but with groovy rhythm section Gotham Theory evolves from those influences to craft a unique sound.

I would add that there is an artistic sensibility present in the music as well. Maybe it’s the pop-art cover (reminiscent of Roy Lichtenstein) of their newest studio album “Why’d You Break Up With Me?” (which may be ordered at the band's website that indicates there is going to be a lot of meat on this intellectual bone. The album clocks in at 11 tracks and while the sound is distinct to each number, there is a common thread of time-tested ruggedness that runs through each song (two of which: “Angry Boy” and “Stepping Out” can be heard on their website).

“Angry Boy” pays homage to distorted guitar blues from the rifts right down to the story-oriented lyrics. It hits the ground running with in-your-face repeating melodies and doesn’t let up for the duration. The vocals are fantastically melodic and yet, they are gruff and scream-oriented which is not an easy nuance to pull off, but here it is done masterfully. “Angry Boy” is not only a declamation of a life gone wrong – it is a sympathetic call to the audience which says “feel this with me!”

“Stepping Out” is no less aggressive than “Angry Boy” but it is quite a bit more optimistic in its sound. At its best, it has an almost disco-quality, that is, if disco could be played with only distorted guitar, drums, and bass (ahhh, I’m missing the slide drums). The lyrics couldn’t be any better, a song about proud cheating is so wonderfully assertive with masculine energy. In a world populated by emasculated betas trying desperately to downplay their testosterone, it is good to know that we can still enjoy art not catering to the modern political climate.

Visiting their YouTube channel is also worthwhile for the acoustic covers - only one up right now, but it's a performance which demonstrates this is a live band (no disrespect to their studio work which is incredible). Here in this cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” we get to see Sam Brewer belt passionately while Josh Sunderlin strums beautifully in support. It’s an incredible rendition of a great song – hopefully, we’ll see more of these in the future.

I think if John Lee Hooker could have developed precognition and been able to see down the generations to acts like Gotham Theory, he’d be happy. It’s nice to know that younger musicians are maintaining a strength of character, writing engaging lyrics, and just playing the shit out of their instruments for the sake of rock. The band, made up of Sam Brewer on drums and lead vocals, Stu DePoy on Bass, Zach Mason on guitar, and Josh Sunderlin on guitar and lead vocals make for a very powerful sonic quad. Do yourself a favor while you’re downloading “Why’d You Break Up With Me?” – make sure you also listen to it with a pair of headphones just to get every lyric and grungy guitar chord. 

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