Short Takes: On Hungary Saving European Rock, a Finn in Berlin Out to Lynch, and A Well Suited Guitar Gem

By Brian Arsenault

Hungarian Rhapsody

Melody (The Poster Boy)

If Poster Boy is the new “poster boy” for continental rock out of Europe, there may be hope. Only once on its CD Melody does the band succumb to the Eurocrap of weird little electronic sounds and then only mildly on “Traction.” The rest of the time the band — composed of two Hungarians and an expat American — provides a certain charm with what was once called garage sound.

Like some buddies took a tape machine into an old warehouse and just recorded good pop rock. A stripped down sound, hollow, you know, small amps bouncing sound off cement walls.

A European critic has called their album “timeless pop,” but is it timeless or just out of time. The title tune could have been a hit in 1968 maybe by Badfinger but can it now?

Europe is an odd place when it comes to rock. A few years ago on an interminable cab ride from the airport into Milan, I heard in succession an old Abba hit, an Italian pop love song, a twenty year old Al Green recording and the latest U2 hit.  In Rome a couple years later there were posters all over the place for Motorhead and I didn’t even know the band was still together.

Poster Boy says it is unashamedly pop in nature but it’s pop in the best sense,  a bit like Semisonic, a name that sort of describes both bands. Songs are all over the pop landscape. “Once” is like the Beatles meet Carole King which would kinda be the Monkees, right? Only sung by Brian Wilson. The first cut of “It’s Over” (there are two on the album) has a blue eyed soul sound to it, sort of Hall & Oates, but the second one with a vocal by Viki Singh is a real soul record.  (Would like to hear more of Miss Viki).

Then there’s the acoustic love regret “Diffraction” which is really quite a lovely song; “Only a Test,” a bit of art rock with dark imaging that life is “only a test,” but a test for what; and “Pale Blue,” a yearning “this one chance is all we’ll have” sound which may speak for the band as well as relationships.

I know. I just can’t make up my mind. It’s like you go to a club and you like the band. You leave pleased but on reflection, how good are they? Still, it was great to get a CD mailed from Budapest.

A Finn in Berlin

Out To Lynch (TUM Records)

Just when I was starting to think that the Eurockpopjazz scene wasn’t so weird along comes Kalle Kalima. Kalima, an expat Finn living in Berlin, draws his musical inspiration from eccentric film directors — not the theme music mind, but the directors themselves.

With his band K-18 — the band’s name is itself a reference to the movies– he has released Out To Lynch, a tribute to you know who and a follow up to his earlier homage to Stanley Kubrick. There probably was no way an album starring Bob the monster killer from “Twin Peaks” and Frank Booth, played too convincingly by Dennis Hopper in “Blue Velvet,” wouldn’t be strange. There’s even a guy who gets an instrumental credit for playing doors as in, presumably, shut the front door.

Kalima is probably a terrific guitarist, seems it at the start, but who would know as the cacophony builds throughout. I just can’t imagine myself saying too often: “Hey, let’s put on that psychotic music, you know, the crazy stuff from Germany or somewhere.”

Oh, there’s some good stuff.  “Laura Palmer” is a musical Laura Palmer. You see her, feel her, dead then alive, just like in “Twin Peaks”. For a while. Then it drifts. “Mulholland Drive” marvelously musically creates the sensation of a late night fog bound drive. For a while. Then electrononsense.

On the whole, this one is only for the brave, not if you’re already feeling on the edge, or the ledge.

Music to the Third Power

Takin’ it There (Capri Records)

On Takin’ it There, guitarist Graham Dechter lightly bears the burden of being a third generation accomplished musician on the affectionate, smooth “Father”; appreciates what came before on the classic “Come Rain or Come Shine”; and bravely brings a dash of classical to bossa nova jazz on Jobim’s “Chega De Saudade.” (So the album press release had that last point right. There’s good PR, too, you know.)

If the above strikes you as wide ranging, Dechter is certainly that. Accomplished would also be right. As would inventive and thoughtful.

On Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye” paired with his own “Amanda” he hits all the right emotional notes. And silences.  Ably supported and sharing solos with pianist Tamir Hendelman. “Together and Apart” has similar emotional depth. I felt like I’d heard a story of regret.

Oh yeah, there’s also the energy-filled title song and a great take on Wes Montgomery’s “Road Song” to lead off.

Next Graham, how about  some songs with an accomplished female jazz singer. There’s a bunch on the current scene to pick from. And, by the way, love your suit.

To read more reviews, posts and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE

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