Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Queen City Quandaries

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Old Empire's debut album starts off with a Wall of Sound, '60s pop-copping, girl group-esque bang. "Track & Field" kicks off the album with an irresistible slice of melodic goodness that begs repeated listens, which could make it hard for one to move on to the rest of the record. But it's definitely worth resisting the repeat option.

Considering Phil Spector's recent murder conviction, the word "bang" might not be the most politically correct way to start this review. But no matter — these guys have torn a page or two out of Spector's book, and those pages all contain notes on how to pack a pop wallop, not the kind you'd get when packing heat. Mixing Motown, classic '60s pop, country and whatever else they've decided worthy of their attention — they list only the phrase "we like a lot of records" under "Sounds Like" on their MySpace page — this Detroit band offers up a varied, yet well-rounded mix of styles on Queen City Quandaries, all done well.

The title refers to the trials and tribulations of life in the Queen City of Cincinnati, but can be applied to the Midwest in general. In fact, group leader Gabe Dodson has suggested many of the songs were inspired by analyzing characters on the '70s show, WKRP in Cincinnati. But the ideas expressed transcend things to which Loni Anderson might relate (although she would probably love the melodic jangle of song "Sweaterdress"). Whether it's the defiant confessions of "Empty Promises ("I wear white shoes after Labor Day ... and I've got a white belt too") or the rockin', Steppenwolf-infused wanderlust of "Hazy Sunshine" ("I gotta get up, I gotta go out, I gotta get up and ride. To California, the hazy sunshine — c'mon and be my light ..."), Old Empire is both proudly and stylishly making old sounds new again.

Old Empire plays Friday, June 26, at the Belmont, 10215 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-871-1966. With Blase Splee and the Wednesdees.

Laura Witkowski reviews music for Metro Times. E-Mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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