Wednesday, February 3, 2010

No Boundaries

Posted By on Wed, Feb 3, 2010 at 12:00 AM

As much as popular music and various music scenes seem to be so genre-specific in modern times — so do the many genres often blend, bleed and blur. Detroit's Fifth Way, a hard rockin' quintet featuring Michiganders from locales as distant and exotic as Essexville and Port Huron, is a classic case in point. Self-described as "post-grunge," which sadly often means something like Creed these days, the band shows influences rooted in the Seattle bands the second part of that description would suggest, including Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. But when this debut disc kicks off with the blazing and blaring "Lose Control," it's obvious that these guys are also heavily ingrained with the metal — particularly the hair metal — sound that dominated much of the 1980s and early '90s.

Fifth Way's saving grace, however, for those of us who didn't like, say, Skid Row — and perhaps where the Nirvana/Cobain component of their "post-grunge" title most comes into play — is the band's melodic bent, an element not always present in that era's metal music, or in a few of the grunge acts that didn't include members who married Courtney Love. A lot of that melody is courtesy of the twin guitar attack of lead player Zak Stekmasek and cohort Adam Trahan, which is powerful but tastefully tuneful at the same time and is ultimately what makes the band somewhat unique. And yet, the aforementioned "Lose Control" or "Stomping Ground" — which could have been called "Hell, Yeah," a line that's repeated throughout the song, and which musically brings to mind an instrumental line from Bad Company's "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" — wouldn't sound at all out of place next to something by early Van Halen or mid-period Mötley Crüe. It certainly has that kind of sonic "power."

Speaking of rock 'n' roll fantasies, it takes some balls to title a song "Rock 'n' Roll" in 2010. After all, none can stand up under scrutiny against the definitive anthems from Lou Reed and Led Zeppelin, respectively, back in the days when the term actually meant something ... or at least so we thought. Seriously, though, lyrics like "I live rock 'n' roll/I'll die rock 'n' roll" are pretty damn hard to take, um, seriously from anyone in this day and age. Still, these guys sound like they mean it so much, it's actually kinda refreshing, even if the song doesn't necessarily make a believer out of you.

Lead singer Tim Gossman grows on you with repeated listens — at first, one worries he may be as much David Clayton Thomas as he is Eddie Vedder — ultimately displaying a voice that even works admirably on the disc's sole ballad, "Never Gonna Be." The entire album may not hit on all cylinders, especially lyrically (most of it seems to be little more than platitudes about not letting the bastards get you down) on all 11 tracks. Nevertheless, No Boundaries is still pretty impressive when it comes to both a specific musical genre and genre-blending in general.

Bill Holdship is the music editor of Metro Times Send comments to bholdship@metrotimes.com.

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