Monday, November 9th 2009
Reviews: The Company Band
For the past three years, The Company Band has been mostly a distant light on the horizons of five men whose time has been monopolized by the several bands they individually belong to. But finally, after teasing the masses last year with a blistering four-song debut EP Sign Here, Here and Here, The Company Band arrives in full form this year with their first proper full-length album.
The incomparable Mr. Neil Fallon of Clutch has joined forces with Fireball Ministry frontman James Rota, Fu Manchu bassman Brad Davis, CKY drummer Jess Margera and guitarist Dave Bone to form The Company Band, whose debut album steps far beyond the satirical ode to corporate imperialism that birthed their name and the center theme of their EP. With production from Andew Alekil, The Company Band sounds like the karate chop to the face that it is: melodically clean, brutally clever and knocking your ass to the ground every chance it gets. There are no dull moments on this album – having had two-plus years to trim the fat and fine-tune the machine, the end result is a five-cylinder engine roaring cleaner and meaner than most of the contributing members have ever offered in their day-job bands.
Opener Zombie Barricades takes a shot at the stagnancy of modern American society over a glorious gut-rock riff. Fallon longs for the days of healthy arms-race competition (“Bring back the U.S.S.R.! We need the motivation!”), while dropping one of the most hilariously invigorating F-bombs in recent history just after the first verse. The drumming is some of Margera’s finest, punchier and more dynamic than his CKY work, which calls for a bit less swagger and versatility.
The brutally honest Hot Topic Woman is addressed to such, a new breed of biker metal with pop savvy and nu-culture snark on high, while Lethe Waters, an ode to an ancient Greek river of forgetfulness, is the closest the band comes to embracing its preconceived stoner-rock associations. There’s not a lot of brooding to be found with The Company Band – there’s no profit margin in pandering to the bloodshot, no matter how epically promising the lineup may be.
Master of the clever couplets, metaphorical double-entendres and witty one-liners, Fallon never misses a beat when painting pictures of the absurd and bizarre with his bearded boom. Whether barking like a possessed evangelical in Who Else But Us? or the screaming beehive stomp of album highlight CD&W, he lays the awesome on thick and pungent.
In the former, there are enough lyrical gems to fill a lesser song-scribe’s entire career, summarizing vast social observations with biting satire in the span of an eight-count. Pharmaceutical agitation / makes it easier to persuade ‘em, Fallon gloats, before summarizing his feelings on the great spiritual unknown: Ancient prophecy / demonic possession / if it’s for real I just want protection. This, of course, is all before the chorus, where the phrase “chairman of the waterboard” is born, defining the Cheney-esque model of ruthless corporate domination to a finely-sharpened point.
All the same, Fallon knows his timing. On the downtempo slow-build of All’s Well In Milton Keynes, his vocals alternate with the melodic riff phrasings of Bone and Davis, lending to the melancholy of the one jam that doesn’t threaten to tear your head off on the record. Djinn And Pentatonic is another example; punctuated by a “BOOM, subatomic!,” Neil counters the riff rather than lay the melody over it, allowing a greater breathing space for Rota and Bone to build the high end melodies.
The inevitable Clutch comparisons will be made, due to Neil’s unique voice and delivery, but there’s a refreshing nature to the fact that the Company Band didn’t deconstruct their chemistry in an effort to not sound like Fallon’s other band. “We really didn’t think about anything like that,” Margera told us last week. “We just wanted to play, you know? We didn’t care. Whatever it ended up sounded like was how it sounded. There wasn’t any trying to steer away from anything. I imagine that it’s probably gonna sound like all the bands smashed together.” That it does, that it does. But when your singer has one of the most recognizably distinct voices in Rock, there’s no escaping the dismissive comparisons among the message-board mafia.
If a band’s greatest flaw is that it sounds like the Rock titans they’re affiliated with, it’s a mark they’ll likely wear with pride. Those interested enough to know will be quick to point out the differences in both melody, production, attitude and execution, but the Bone-driven riffs and natural chemistry between members – all fans of each others’ other bands – speaks enough for its own identity. The Company Band is a force to be reckoned with.