It’s not yet April and already 2015 has been a banner year for power pop trios here in Minneapolis. One of the first local releases we reviewed here was New Noir by Mystery Date, which hasn’t been far from our turntable since. No less an authority than Maximumrockandroll picked it as“record of the week” recently, describing it as “strangely catchy and poppy, while also a little bit eerie and dark.” And if you finally unsnagged yourself from all the hooks on Rank Strangers‘ new album Lady President, you’ll find yourself caught up in them all over again: the band plans to release two more LPs before the end of the year.
And then there’s this disc which — to borrow a phrase from that Maximumrockandroll review — blew our socks off. What Tyrants’ debut, No Luck, is an addictive album at the nexus between garage rock, power pop and the down-on-my-luck, unemployed and unrequited-love tunes of Mike Ness. Brothers Sean and Kyle Schultz play their respective parts on guitar and drums with the sort of intuition we suppose you’re supposed to expect from brothers — and bassist Garrison Grouse walks through the trios tight arrangements with class and charm not at all removed from John Entwistle’s role on Live at Leeds. Absolutely everything about this disc succeeds in reminding us why we love rock and roll in all its glorious forms.
What Tyrants’ first release was a single featuring an earlier version of this album’s catchy opener, “Far Out.” It fell flat on our ears last summer for its lo-fi production. There’s nothing wrong with sounding good, even in garage rock: its why, for instance, we love a good 45 of the Standell’s “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White” played loud, and its why we love No Luck so much. Killer tunes “Lean on the World” have a fantastic drive, given the same healthy li’l nudge by their clean drum sound. Recording engineer Ali Jaafar knows how to hit that garage-y sweet spot, even though his Ecstattic Studio is actually in an attic (and incidentally, give a listen to this recent compilation of other surprisingly diverse Ecstattic recordings). The record has the right rough edges, especially in its reverb-tastic vocals and crisp lead riffs, and you’re going to find it best played loud.
And you should, because it touches on all the things that makes one want to play a record loud. The trio approaches classic arena rock in the magnificent “Feeling Alright (I’m Okay)” — a song which we think oughta join Dave Mason’s “Feelin’ Alright” and the Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll” in the great canon of rock songs about, you know, feelin’ alright — with the same stunning success as their take on the whole garage rock thing. Shades of rockabilly make “4s and 5s” a fun song, just before good old fashioned punk rock steals the scene moments later in “Scuzz,” where Grouse and Kyle Schultz jumps into an unexpected psych rock breakdown just before the end of its minute and forty second mania. You can, by the way, hear and download the whole album here.
“Feeling Alright (I’m Okay)”
There’s even a few little hints of the rhythm & blues vis-à-vis new wave Sean Schultz and Grouse have been performing together with ol’ Hymie’s favorites Black Diet, as in the Television/Blondie-ish rocksteady beat of “Blue in the Face.” What Tryrants put the whole mix together with originality and striking sincerity — its like they raided our record collection and found new ways to make our favorites work together. And it all works so well: If we may borrow again from that Maximumrockandroll review of the Mystery Date album, “these guys clearly believe in what they’re doing.” This is one of our very favorite local releases yet out this year. You’ll be hearing it a lot around here.
What Tyrants have an album release show for No Luck this Friday, April 3rd, at the Triple Rock Social Club. Also playing are Fury Things, Some Pulp and Ripper. Details through Facebook can be found here, as well as on the Triple Rock calendar.