Wednesday, March 9, 2011

CD Review: 4 on the Floor

2010 was a bit of an anomaly for me. Through a variety of sources, I usually glom onto about a half-dozen or more new singers or bands each year (at least new to me). Last year seemed to be one of just enjoying the comforts of those I already liked.

One band has already got my attention in 2011: 4 On The Floor from Minneapolis, MN. Admittedly, some of their hooks included:
  • One of my favorite breakfast meals: The Twos at Mickey's Dining Car in neighboring St. Paul, MN.
  • Delighted Minneapolis is delivering more music in line with my interests vs. Prince
  • The band's name: 4 On The Floor
  • The title of their new release: 4 x 4
  • The vinyl release date: April 4
  • The time signature in all their songs: 4/4
  • My current vehicle: a Dodge Dakota 4x4.
  • All 4 band members tap their toes to ... individual bass drums.
  • I marched bass drum my sophomore year in high school.
  • My son marched bass drum his sophomore year last fall.
So right out of the gate, this band seems to have more gimmicks than a Carrot Top Vegas act, right? First thing I pondered when I heard of this band where everyone plays bass drum is "hmm, I wonder if they'll be like Big Pig." About 20 years ago, I picked up a cassette of this short-lived Australian band. Each band members played percussion, and a vocalist was added. Think industrial, prog, Bauhaus/Peter Murphy, etc. No guitars. Unusual but great recording.

As it turns out, Big Pig is nothing like 4 On The Floor. This band is very uh... 'garage' oriented - and I mean that in a good way. There's more to them than perhaps I originally thought might be there. A constant 4/4 bass drum beat, slide guitar, rough vocals and an ample supply of single and double chord songs fills the bill pretty well for this debut LP.

A few thoughts about some of the songs...

Exile - A bit of an odd start to the CD. A slow, monotone-lyrical dirge with opening chants and the soon-to-join constant bass drum thump. But hold on, because the opener tees up the 2nd cut nicely.

Lionhearted - After wondering about the opener, the singing of Lionhearted suddenly hit me right in the mouth. I first played this cut during my morning commute, and it cost me a few extra cents in fuel as I accelerated 10 MPH. Singer, Gabe Douglas, sings like he starts his day by gargling shredded razor blades soaked in a cup of yesterday's cold coffee ... again, I mean that in a good way. I struggled for a listen or two to put my finger on his sound. About the best way I can visualize it is a deeper-voiced Patterson Hood from Drive By Truckers fronting a metal band. I'll say this though - a couple of lines in the song kick-started my motivation for the day.
You better get your legs beneath you,
you better *LION* find those feet below you

Workin' Man Zombie - ZZ Top's Tres Hombres era came to mind as the opening riff of this one began.

First on a List of Things I Don't Need - best song title of the album - This song opens with the repeated strumming of a single chord. One. For 20 seconds - which began to seem like a liftime. As soon as the lyrics began, I had a good laugh. Whether an unintentional or deliberate effort, the lyrics were the antithesis of the guitar lead-in:
Change, who needs it
It just jingle jangles in my pocket
Do not change - not for me.
So afraid of different scenery

Don't bring change to my table
It'll just get lost in the mix
Do not change, I'm not able
So don't call me a hypocrite
On Tuesdays - The single most inspiring, uplifting tune of the whole bunch. [/endsarcasm]
I'm drunk on Tuesdays
I didn't make it halfway through the week
I'm drunk on Tuesdays
And some days I can barely speak

Cashillac - My first reaction to hearing the first few bars of this song was to think a Johnny Cash trib may be in play. This was before scanning the packaging for song titles. I have to believe its more than a coincidence that the song's influence and vibe matches its title.

For Pa / For Ma - Bands often bury their weakest song as the final track. I frequently found this to be an issue back in the days of vinyl. I supposed producers rolled the dice that listeners may not always listen to all of the B side. In a digital age, however, with track shuffling and iTunes purchases, bands have to bring it. In the case of For Pa / For Ma, the band closes with one of the stronger tracks of their album - musically and vocally. My only complaint? The song includes some banjo, but its almost too distant. It would have been nice to see it raised in the mix.

Despite the gimmick of all four players thumping a bass drum, the sound isn't overpowering on the CD. Its there on every track, but I can deal with it. Admittedly, I haven't ripped the CD to my iPod yet to listen with ear buds as I'm mowing the grass. I suppose I could end up munching a fistful of Advil if I did so. But its otherwise been an enjoyable CD so far.

Would I like to see the band live? Based on a few YouTube videos I've seen, I think it would be a fun show. It would be interesting to hear how tight the four of them could be or what ad-libs might be pulled with the drums.

Because the band originally caught my attention with some novelty about their name, album, and release date, I guess its only appropriate if I offer suggestions for future releases to catch the eye of others.
  • For their next release, maybe they could add another guitarist, release it on May 5th, live in a camper as they tour and name it 5th Wheel.
  • For their third album, they could add a second drummer a la .38 Special or The Allman Brothers, release it on June 6th, upgrade their camper-towing vehicle to a Ram 3500 diesel pick-up and title it Dually.

1 comment:

  1. I caught 4 on the Floor last night at the Minneapolis Beer Festival and they were absolutely unbelievable live in the festival setting ... Strangely enough we went for the beer but ended up drawn to the stage for their set ... The 4 bass drums thumping in 4/4 time live is something very primal that one truly appreciates live ... If you have yet to see them live you need to ...