There are bands that become successful because of intense and expensive record company promotion that repeatedly tell us that this entertainer is a musician, regardless what your ears may tell you. There are bands that dominate the radio, the ‘net stream, and iTunes because they have a look. There are bands that become well known because of the producer that records the music, even before we hear that first chord. And there are bands that become successful for the simple reason that they are good, they successfully write music that captures the often ignored inner need we all have for a great song. Dayton’s own Motel Beds are one example of a band that is simply a good band that consistently delivers great songs.
With the Misra Records recent release of their recent collection, These Are The Days Gone By, PJ Paslowsky, Tommy Cooper, Ian Kaplan, Derl Robbins, and Tod Weidner remind us that even without the music industry machine, without some hypoallergenic created look, great music can not only be consistently created – it can be created in your home town.
Days starts with the eponymous album track, a rocking reminder that art and commerce should connect when the time is right. And for this band, the time is right with every song you hear on this collection. These are the Days Gone By – a standout track from the ‘Beds Tango Boys album – demonstrate the way that the guitars-bass-drums approach of rock and roll can still be made fresh and exciting. If you do not start to sway when you hear the twin guitars of Cooper and Robbins, you should check your pulse; and if the bass does not make you dance… “Well, how you feeling right now? Are you still with us?”
The next song Ocean Flows from the ‘Beds 2009 EP Go For A Dive connects the listener to the best in high intensity yet rocking lofi-ish sound. Songs such as this recall the early and best of bands like R.E.M. when the vocals did not have to be so highly mixed as to over-power the music. While this lesson is repeatedly ignored by Top 40 radio, The ‘Beds are able to make the most out of a mix that encourages the listener to feel the different instruments of the song. It is important to note that the current arrangement of Ocean Flows illustrates the impressive drop-your-jaw drumming of Ian Kaplan that becomes a full out attack on later ‘Beds recordings such as Sunfried Dreams and Dumb Gold. And live, wow… you will wonder how Kaplan can lift his arms after a show.
With Skymade Suit and Cactus Kiss the band reveals early ideas that will be more fully realized on later work. Skymade Suit was the first track on the ‘Beds 2003 EP Hasta Manana and show a different side to the band. Suit was recorded with only Paslosky, Cooper and Kaplan before being joined by current members Derl Robbins and Tod Weidner. The evolution of the band is demonstrated when comparing songs such as Skymade Suit and more recent work such as Surfjerk, Smoke Your Homework, and Valentimes. Cactus Kiss originally appeared on the 2007 collection Local Losers – a release to benefit WWSU radio — and then on The ‘Beds Moondazed album and more importantly helps place The ‘Beds into a constant evolving swirl of Beach Boys influenced rock psychadelia.
The alternative version of Sunfried Dreams is a welcome visit into the creative process of the band. It is one of only two songs on the album to include keyboards; the alt version of Dreams has a different all around feel than the version that ended up on the album of the same name. One has to wonder if this alternative version is a glimpse of a band that would have moved along a different path than the road taken.
Standouts on the record include Tropics of the Sand that include the vocals of the always terrific Kelley Deal (R. Ring, The Breeders), Surfjerk, Lights On and Smoke Your Homework – Songs that have long been featured on local radio, all four songs in rotation on WUDR. It is impressive how Paslosky and Deal wrap their vocals around the song. They sing and sound as if they have been singing together for years! When their cascading vocals hit the song title together, you believe that they are yearning for a tropic somewhere together. You feel it. With Lights On and Surfjerk you hear the welcome addition of Tod Weidner (Shrug and heck too many projects to list here). The additional strength on bass and on vocals on other tracks greatly strengthens the overall sonic texture of The Motel Beds. And if you have seen the band live, you know firsthand how much Weidner adds to the performance!
One of the best discoveries on the album is the cover – and it is the only cover on the album – of Matthew Sweet’s I’ve Been Waiting, an often overlooked track from his terrific album Girlfriend! The ‘Beds demonstrate their understanding of indie-college music by tacking the song and infusing urgency in the song that Sweet’s focus on classic indie-pop melody understates. The Motel Beds make the song feel more immediate and more plaintive than Sweet ever could. And considering that Matthew Sweet once had an indie hit with a song called Sick of Myself – that is really saying something.
Throughout all twelve tracks on this album you almost miss noting the captivating vocals of PJ Paslosky. Instead of grand standing and singing in some strange grandiose manner, Paslosky extends his voice in ways that draw the listener into the songs. Whether listening to an early song by the band or something from their latest album of new material, Dumb Gold, you find yourself drawn to him. Drawn not because of an industry manufactured buzz or some odd notoriety, but a gravity that a gifted vocalist creates.
Do not miss this collection – part retrospective, part review, and part exploration – consider this a road map of good songs for your music loving soul.
Track List for These are the Days Gone By:
1. These are the Days Gone By
2. Ocean Flows
3. Skymade Suit
4. Cactus Kiss
7. Lights On
8. Western Son
9. Tropics Of The Sand
10. Sunfried Dreams (alternate version)
11. I’ve Been Waiting
12. Smoke Your Homework
Cross posted at Your Tuesday Afternoon Alternative