Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Connection - Wish You Success

For those of us who've long been awaiting new material from The Connection, payday has arrived! I've not been fully committal on identifying a favorite band in recent years. But if you bought me a beer and really pressed me on the issue, I'd admit that The Connection are it. They are the perfect mix of everything I love in music: a little bit of power pop, a pinch of American '70s punk, and a whole lot of rock n' roll! They are a true example of rock n' roll being fully alive and as thriving as ever in 2018. Honestly, I didn't really mind the three-year wait for a new record. The thing that makes The Connection (arguably) the best band going these days is the way they combine pure rock n' roll energy with absolutely top-of-the-line songwriting. I really appreciate that the band took the time to work up a fantastic collection of songs. Wish You Success, out on the New Jersey label 2WIN DISC Records, is a stacked set of Marino/Palmer originals that more than holds it own against its formidable predecessor Labor Of Love. At one point in the past, I may have said that Labor Of Love could never be topped. I was wrong!

So after three years between albums, you had to wonder where The Connection would go next. Thankfully, the band has chosen not to mess with a good thing. Wish You Success is simply a great rock n' roll record. It pulls off the tricky task of honoring influences from 50-60 years ago while still belonging to a new generation. "You Know" is the sort of crowd-pleasing number you'd expect to kick off the record - a straight-up rocker that punches up the guitars and gets the blood pumping. The Geoff Palmer penned "Checking" quickly steers things into mid-tempo power pop rock n' roll territory, and I might be inclined to call it my favorite Connection song ever! One thing I quickly noticed with this album was how good the lyrics are. That is especially true on this song. "Checking" is the ultimate statement on the stresses of life in the modern age, and I can't imagine there's anyone who wouldn't be able to relate. This track also demonstrates how you can take a great song and make it even better if you know how to make your guitar sing. Are you convinced that within The Connection, Brad is the "rock" guy and Geoff is the "pop" guy? Marino's "Color Me Unimpressed" kind of shoots that theory to shit. It's such a perfect '60s-inspired pop number that I can't help imagining The Muffs covering it. And those wonderfully bitter lyrics will surely have Elvis Costello smiling in approval.

So I only mentioned the first three tracks, but I hope most of you have stopped reading and just gone and bought Wish You Success! In case you were wondering: that strong start is no tease. The band just keeps on bringing it. The title track is an upbeat rootsy rocker that lays out some serious hard truths in the lyrics. "The Girl Is Trouble" is a winning nod to the Buddy Holly/Bobby Fuller school of rock n' roll. "Heaven Or Hell" finds the band back in that familiar '70s Stones groove, while "In The End" hits that sweet spot where Dave Edmunds intersects with The Ramones. "What A Shame" is vintage Geoff Palmer '60s pop majesty. If much of today's "alt-country" has largely dampened your enthusiasm for country rock, "Thinking Out Loud" should fully restore it.

I suppose I'm out on the limb now. I told you that The Connection have outdone themselves, and surely I will be inundated with angry correspondence if y'all buy this record and are let down. Let's just say that any claims above were issued with the highest level of confidence. Whether you're a garage geek, a '60s rock n' roll fanatic, or a power pop enthusiast, you gotta love The Connection! Both musically and lyrically, this is the band's strongest set of songs to date. Brad and Geoff have never sounded better on their guitars, and this latest rhythm section (Bobby Davis on bass and Zack Sprauge on drums) matches their energy at every step. Wish You Success is out today. Hit up the 2WIN DISC Bandcamp to order on vinyl or CD. Digital album is available from The Connection's Bandcamp. Marino and Palmer fans stay tuned. I'll have much to say about some solo releases of theirs in the coming weeks!


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