Friday, January 24, 2020

Beach Patrol - Making Waves

I've said this before, and I'm gonna say it again: Beach Patrol has made its best album yet! Either I'm full of shit (not improbable!), or Domenic Marcantonio is simply on an extraordinary songwriting roll. Making Waves is the Green Bay trio's sixth album. And in my estimation, albums four through six have been by far the strongest in the band's catalog. In a way, that seems logical. Over the years, Domenic has fully honed his craft and truly come into his own as a songwriter. His growing life experience has given him the insight to write songs that say meaningful things about life and society. And he's become an incredible rock and roll guitarist - absolutely one of my favorites working today. But while so many other bands lose a little of their magic as they become technically better, Beach Patrol has never lost sight of what made the band appealing in the first place. In fact, Making Waves is the band's rawest, most straight-forwardly "rock and roll" recording to date. Domenic had such a blast recording Levity in Pete Donnelly's home studio that he was inspired to buy a Tascam dp-32 machine and make the next Beach Patrol record at home. Making Waves was literally recorded live in his basement. Songs were completed in single takes, and no mistakes were edited out. Keyboards and some minimal guitars/vocals were dubbed in, but in essence this is a live album. Put it on, and it's like Beach Patrol is right there in the room with you playing a set.

Before I even read up on Making Waves, I could tell that the dirtier sound was an artistic choice. I must say it suits the band well. Minus any kind of fancy production, the songs themselves are at the center of attention. And this really is a brilliant batch of original songs - eight written and sung by Domenic and another two written and sung by bass player Damien Dias. There's a great mix of styles as well: a little power pop, a little rhythm & blues, a touch of country and folk, a couple ballads, and a whole lot of good old-fashioned rock and roll.

What I've noticed in Domenic's ascent to greatness is his ability to say something profound in song without neglecting well-crafted hooks and melodies that stick in your head. Opening track "Making Waves" is a perfect example of this. It lures you in with killer guitar riffs and an instantly memorable chorus. Yet at a deeper level, it's an impassioned statement about how we as a people are impeding our own progress by being so awful to each other. "We could be making waves," Domenic sings, "But we're stuck in these ways." With that one simple line, he perfectly summarizes the negativity, divisiveness, and general cruelty that plague our modern discourse. "Battlestar Galactica" takes a more optimistic tone - observing that our present generation is far from the first to suspect that the demise of civilization is imminent. Domenic shows his unique way with words, reflecting on the "It's not the end of the world" theme with wisdom and even a touch of dark humor ("If I'm wrong/Then we won't be around/To worry about it long"). "Struggle" is an epic rocker riding a melody so solemn that it practically brings to mind a religious hymn. It's full of more deep thoughts on the common human experience, and it even gives you a glimpse into Domenic's creative process ("I don't write songs/They appear to me/You just play the little guitar until you set them free"). Elsewhere, "Spell U Cast" and "Too Late Smart" prove that Domenic can still write upbeat pop songs with the best of 'em. And "Thunder of the Mouth" astutely points out the enduring relevance of a well-known Apache proverb. Damien's two contributions complement the rest of the album remarkably well. "So Damn Good" is that one mushy love song out of 100 that you simply can't fault because of the perfection of its sappiness. It definitely lives up to its title! "Sidekick" is up-tempo twangy pop that's so damn catchy that I've been hearing it in my sleep all week. It's a little strange hearing a new voice on a Beach Patrol record, but I've got to say that I'm looking forward to hearing more Damien Dias!

Making Waves is the first Beach Patrol album to feature the band's current lineup of Domenic, Damien, and drummer Travis Magee. It's likely a very accurate representation of what it would sound like if you saw the band live. I wondered to myself if I would have liked these songs better if they had been "better produced", and I quickly came to the conclusion that I wouldn't want the band to change a thing about this album. It captures the trio in all of its basement band glory. This is quintessential Midwestern indie rock and roll - passionate, sincere, and rough around the edges in purely the best way. I love the rawness of the performances, and I'm blown away by the variety and quality of the songwriting. This is one of our great American rock and roll bands operating at the peak of its powers. If you're a fan, Making Waves will give you more of what you already love. If this is your first time hearing Beach Patrol, this is as good of a starting point as any. Download available from CD Baby!


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