Monday, September 8, 2014

The Rock n Roll Hi Fives, Make It Happen, 2014

EP Review

Back in the cooldaughters' pre-school days, I would drive them to and from school and their various activities. Much like now, they controlled the radio in the car. They didn't listen to Top 40 schlock then, but they would never listen to "my music" either. Sirius had a kids station that would play all the top hits from Noggin and Nick Jr. by acts like Laurie Berkner, Dan Zanes, Justin Roberts, Trout Fishing In America, Imagination Movers, Randy Kaplan, Brady Rymer, Recess Monkey, and on and on. This wasn't all bad. I remember liking Randy Kaplan; and, of course, Dan Zanes is totally cool.

The thing that kind of got to me, though, was the subject matter of the songs. They all sounded OK. Some of them even rocked a bit. But as a grown-ass man, you can only take so many songs about dinosaurs, colors, peanut butter and jellly sandwiches, and pop flies. When I received my copy of Make It Happen by New Jersey's Rock n Roll Hi Fives, I was all ready to hear songs about colors and birds and rainbows.

The Rock n Roll Hi Fives, you see, are a family band "in the truest sense of the word." That is, Dad plays guitar; Mom plays bass; 11-year-old daughter sings; and 9-year-old son plays drums. Here's the wrinkle, though. Dad is guitarist Joe Centeno, formerly of Jersey City alt rockers Plug Spark Sanjay, (along with several other bands) a band who looked to be on the way up in the early 2000's -- even recording an album with Steve Albini -- before Joe settled down to family life. Joe bided his time, though. He and wife Gloree (bass) cultivated their own homegrown band. Now, with daughter Eilee on vocals and son Evren on drums, The Rock n Roll Hi Fives give us, not necessarily an EP of Family Music (though the songs are appropriate for all ages), but instead an EP of family music -- as in, an EP by a family that makes music together. And they make some good music.

Opener "Good with the Bad" is our first taste of Eilee's powerful indie punk vocals. She duets with Joe throughout the chorus: "Try to make the good times last. Don't try to fix what's in the past." Good advice, especially when it comes wrapped in a couple of blistering solos from Joe. The rhythm section of Gloree and Evren holds things down nicely.

Stones-esque garage rocker "Come Around" is a standout track. Joe Centeno does his best J Mascis impression for the big finish, as the words "come around..." float around yet another big solo.

Some cowbell ushers in "I'm Not Your Girlfriend." The song's weepy guitar and big chorus give things a 60s girl group feel. The lyrics, too: "I can't talk now. I'm late for biology."

Closer and title track "Make It Happen" makes for a great finale. Eilee sings, "I will not let up. I will make it, make it happen. I will be the one to dream" as the rest of the band let loose with a fireworks display of big chords and crashing drums.

Make It Happen is not just a record for kids. It is a really good indie pop record that draws on influences from the 1960s to classic indie/alt rock like Weezer, Pavement, and Guided By Voices. The songs all feature the positive message generally associated with Family Music, but they don't deal in kids-only subject matter. There are some messages, in fact, that everyone should take to heart. Like when Eilee sings on "Good with the Bad," "Don't waste your time getting old. Enjoy the show." The Rock n Roll Hi Fives lead by example.

I'm slipping this onto CoolDaughter #1's iPod and hoping for the best.

You can stream / buy Make It Happen over at The Rock n Roll Hi Fives Bandcamp page.

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