Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The RocknRoll Hi-Fives, the Beat the Sound the Dragon's Roar, 2016

EP Review

CoolMom and I went to see Louis C.K. last night. The guy is an evil genius. There's so much in his comedy that makes me uncomfortable. There's the discomfort I feel sometimes about his jokes on race and sexuality, where I question whether they're some subversive way to get his mostly white and straight audience to look at these issues or whether they're just in poor taste. I'm not sure if he knows or even cares. Then there's the discomfort I feel at his spot-on characterizations of some of the things that go on in my average, suburban, father-of-two-daughters brain. You can watch his comedy specials or live shows if you want to know the details of what I'm talking about, but let's just say I laughed and squirmed and woke up this morning a little unsure of myself after what I'd heard. Louis C.K. is a brilliantly dark artist, and his comedy can stab you in the gut like a knife.

But his isn't the only perspective on the world. There are things out there that show you the world isn't just made up of a bunch of people who, as Louis would say, chose not to kill themselves that day. The world and life are made up of the love of your family and friends, of the things you experience together and share, and of music. The world contains The RocknRoll Hi-Fives; and that should be enough to keep anyone going.

The RocknRoll Hi-Fives are a family band featuring Eilee Centeno (14) on vocals, Evren Centeno (12) on drums, Gloree Centeno (mom) on bass, and Joe Centeno (dad) on guitar. Joe is a NJ music scene vet, and has shared his love of rocking with the rest of the family. the Beat the Sound the Dragon's Roar is the third EP from the New Jersey band in as many years. Mike Moebius of Moonlight Mile Recording produced this one; and he was able to capture the energy, exuberance, and even some of the messiness of this rock and roll family.

On opener "TKO," you can hear the emotion in Eilee Centeno's voice. She sings, "Not gonna let you bring me down! Not gonna let you win this round!" as her dad lays on some chaotic guitar. Rock and roll is full of songs by kids writing about the trials and travails of growing up, but how many of them were co-written with dad and recorded with the rest of the family? There's something special about hearing Eilee work through her anger while dad Joe shreds, mom Gloree plugs away on bass, and brother Evren pounds fiercely on the drums. Everybody has her back.

On single "El SueƱo," Eilee brings a snotty, Joan Jett-style vocal to a song about getting comfortable with who you are. Joe's simple but infectious opening riff is just one example of the band's skill with punk-inspired, pop rock. "(You Got Me) Tongue Tied" combines the sounds of 70s glam, punk, and indie rock with a rocking singalong chorus. "Blast Away With You" gets a little surfy and 50s-esque as Eilee sings, "I wanna blast away with you, jamming to our favorite tunes..."

"Glass Towns" is punky and spacey with "ooh oohs" from Joe and, maybe, Eilee's most all-in performance. The rhythm section of Gloree and Evren shine, applying an exclamation point to the song's distinctive riff.

EP closer, "Running Nowhere," is an anthemic rocker complete with dual vocals from Eilee and Joe. It hits on a theme that runs through a lot of what the RockNRoll Hi-Fives preach. Don't get hung up on the past. Keep moving forward.

It's easy, sometimes, to get frustrated or bored with life. Louis C.K. pushed some buttons for me last night, and I woke up feeling a little... I don't know... But The RocknRoll Hi-Fives showed me one possible solution for all of that: Do what you love with who you love. Look out for each other and keep on moving forward. Sometimes, stuff like that is easier said than done. Believe me. I know. But just throw on the Beat the Sound the Dragon's Roar if you need some inspiration.

the Beat the Sound the Dragon's Roar is out this Friday, October 21st, on Little Dickman Records. If you need even more inspiration, you can come see The RocknRoll Hi-Fives live when they play this Saturday night, October 22nd, at Asbury Park Yacht Club to celebrate the release. They'll be joined by Deal Casino, and the show (co-presented by Little Dickman and CoolDad Music) is free.

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