Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Chris Richards and The Subtractions, Peaks and Valleys, 2018

Album Review

By Henry Lipput

The year is not even half over, and Chris Richards and The Subtractions' Peaks and Valleys has already become one of my favorite releases of the year.

Chris Richards and The Subtractions (In addition to Richards, the group also includes Todd Holmes on bass and Larry Grodsky on drums and percussion) have been around since 2004, and Peaks and Valleys is their first album since 2012's Get Yer La La's Out. In the interim, Richards and The Subtractions have released a trilogy of cover EPs called That Covers That.

More importantly, Richards has been recording with the fantastic power pop trio, The Legal Matters, who released a self-titled album in 2014 and Conrad in 2016. Conrad was my favorite album from that year. Officially adding to the Subtractions as of the new album is Andy Reed, Richards's band mate from The Legal Matters and that group's other principal songwriter, bringing along his talents on guitar and harmonies. The Legal Matters also includes Keith Klingensmith, and all three of the 'Matters have contributed backing vocals to That Covers That EPs under the name The Phenomenal Cats.

If you wanted a template for the great guitars and harmonies on Peaks and Valleys, listen no further than Big Star's #1 Record and Teenage Fanclub's Grand Prix. The Legal Matters have covered both of these bands on their wonderful Trapper Keeper EP, so it's not surprising that the sounds are part of Richards's and Reed's musical DNA.

One of the real treats on Peaks and Valleys is the cover of Big Star's "Thirteen." Other versions I've heard follow the guide of acoustic guitar and voice laid down by Alex Chilton on the original recording. The Peaks and Valleys "Thirteen" is a full-band version, and it's fantastic. It's even better than the one on the That Covers That EP from 2012. Richards's voice is full of teenage angst, and the kind of just-waiting-to-be-turned-down feeling that you might have when you're about to ask someone out. In some ways, it could have been an outtake from the first Big Star album if they decided to have Chris Bell take a go at the vocal.

The sound of a heartbreak-waiting-to-happen is also very much a part of the slow groove that is "Wrapped In A Riddle." There are also some fine harmonies and strings.

"Half Asleep" kicks off the album with a bang, and it's a tune that demands you crank up the volume. The Legal Matters covered The Beatles' "She Said She Said" from Revolver on their Trapper Keeper EP, and there's more than a little of that album's sound on this song. It rocks like "And Your Bird Can Sing," and there's a backwards vocal at the end just like "Rain," which was recorded during the Revolver sessions.

Great guitar is all over Peaks and Valleys. There's "In A Sense," "Maybe That's All," "The End Of Me," which is a stellar showcase -- one of many on the album -- for the rhythm section of Holmes and Grodsky, and a wailing psych-blues finish to "Weekend."

Peaks and Valleys is out now on Futureman Records.

No comments :

Post a Comment