Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Review: Coffinberry S/T... my first stab

A new Coffinberry release is like an unexpected gift from a loved one: I don’t have any expectations but any time they show me how much they care is greatly appreciated. Needless to say I was swooning when I opened my mailbox to find their brand new self-released, self-titled record inside. I felt like making snow angels in a giant field of dandy lions (or lifting weights and pounding beers if that makes me more of a man.)

These guys have been the best of the strong hold bands in Cleveland for the better part of the past decade. What that means is that they have taken over the reigns from bands like the H-100s, TKOs and Cobra Verde. A workhorse to say the least, Coffinberry has probably amassed enough tunes to satisfy the local music nerds for generations to come. So why, oh why, has their tenacity and pure song writing genius not transferred outside of Cleveland? I have no conclusive answer to that question. America is asleep and it’s sad; maybe this new record can cure the collective coma the rest of the nation seems to be in.

After a brief stint with Morphius Records, Coffinberry has decided to go it alone releasing this LP (that means long-player…it’s a term used to describe 12” vinyl records which is how this album is being released) on their own imprint Central Command Center Records. CCC is best known for their uber awesome collection of cassette tapes (Dimeras, Death Sweats) and maybe it was their lack of knowledge in other more progressive musical formats that led them to co-release with the Collectible Escalators label (home to local favorites Machine Go Boom.) Label woes aside, it’s a great treat to hear the long awaited follow up to what may be a bona fide legendary record, God Damn Dogs.

The Cross brothers are a formable tag-team, Nick continues to hone his vocal prowess on the kicker ‘Lorena’ where he sounds like he is a non-goof King of Leon, one that could easily drink the amount of bourbon as the others claim. His older brother Tony continues to be the back-bone of the band as the one-two punch of his drum work along with his siblings song-writing are comparable to a Cleveland Oasis. Don’t throw your empty bottle of Straub at me for writing such a garbage comparison but what is simple is true.

‘New Color’ expands the bands work by adding a piano and harmonica into the mix, all together it’s like Crimpshrine and Neil Young doing a summer duet. The band is slowing things down in comparison to God Dam Dogs which was a record that almost dared the indie rock world to try and turn their backs on Coffinberry. Full of pop laden anthems and radio ready, reflective life lessons, GDD was an A&R reps wet dream. This record sounds like a defiant step forward and beyond, more country than pop and more the result of a night of bong rips than pints of British ale.

‘Glassy Shiny Sun’ is a beautiful reaction to what national music media calls alt-country; sweet guitar strumming and a young, excited tone from Nick comes together to rival most of the herald My Morning Jackets latest work. Coffinberry is easing their way into a world that few local Cle bands have ever set foot one into and they are doing it their way which is to say wonderfully.

‘Little Machine’ may be the hit that these guys have seemingly been avoiding for the past few years. It’s exciting and addictive, full of summer fun and maybe a little of autumn regrets. I don’t’ know, is this indie rock, college rock or just plain kick-ass rock and roll?
The answer avoids me as ‘The Vapors’ slowly drags my spirit away. With tokens of the aforementioned MMJ’s most depressing songs and Tom Waits circus world undertones, this song is a kick in the mouth at the end of a record that still makes me wonder: is this the best they have? If it is, that is a feat that deserves the utmost praise and respect and, if not, then I am finding God and repenting because I never saw something this good in Cleveland’s future.

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