Leftover tracks from some long-forgotten Paul Westerberg/Tom Petty fever-dream collaboration?
Nope, it’s the self-titled, fourth album from Pottsville’s undefinable rock eccentrics, Gleasons Drift.
The album, rich in Midwestern garage tenacity, delicate vocal harmonies and a touch of British Invasion snark ‘n sass, is the stuff upon which the best of college radio was built. There’s not a hint of commercial indulgence; the music instead relying on the indie-cred value of taking a song anywhere you damn well please, regardless of perceived sticker value. Like the aforementioned Westerberg once sang, “We are the sons of no one,” well, Gleasons Drift are the sons of many, musically.
The album is a hodgepodge of streamlined influences and blue-collar jest. For starters, there’s the muscular guitar riffing that opens “Mixx/Rem,” stuff that wouldn’t have been out of place on an early Urge Overkill, Touch and Go Records cut. The song, laden with Beach Boy-esque harmonies and delightfully upbeat resonance, is zany enough with the tongue-in-cheek catcalls of “Hey there baby, with the long brown hair,” to coax the pub crowd to look up from the bottom of a glass, yet infectious enough to entice any rock fan keen on melody and classic, three-chord poise.
Tracks like “Always Midnight” are somewhat akin to a faux-cowpunk , Supersuckers-inspired drive; the song complete with ripping, Chuck Berry licks following a storyline where the guy always gets the girl at the end of the night. The tipsy, roots-inflection of “Stop Dragging Me Down,” with Jayhawks/alt-country slant and Pixies-like, pop quirkiness, is yet another side of Gleasons Drift that only enhances the personality of the record – the band simply never plays it straight.
Standouts like the reckless abandon of rocker “Pumpkinhead Jones,” with lines like “her teeth where white and lined up straight, sparkled when she smiled,” and bubbly refrain of “everybody loves you, everybody loves you,” will have this band’s sardonic blueprint stamped upon the listener’s brain, while “Has Anybody Seen My Baby” is haunted by the same ghosts that were essential to the sparse jangle of R.E.M. circa “Murmur.”
If the hum of a Fender Twin Reverb amp and a shot of whiskey can take you far, then Gleasons Drift has a lot of mileage yet to travel. This is music made by the outsider, content to stake their own claim with their own voice. You can’t help but think that while the band has found their sound, they’re still wide-eyed musical nomads at heart.
Mark Uricheck is a Weekender correspondent who writes weekly CD reviews. Reach Weekender at [email protected]