The Hard Lessons
No Fun Records
by Gary Blackwell
For the past year, this trio has become both fan favorite and critics' darling courtesy of scorching live shows that have proven the band's as soulful as it is rocking. While Gin's coarse riffs couple with The Anvil's thudding drums to drive the band, Ko Ko Louise's powerful vocals and 60's pop quality organ tone give The Hard Lessons depth. The rock/soul performances are one thing, but the catchy songwriting lends itself well enough to clap-and-sing-alongs to make the band's gigs feel like Baptist revivals at times.
Gasoline is a surprisingly varied album; while the songs themselves are basically spruced-up pop songs, the production gives the disc the illusion of having distinct garage rock/indie rock/soul/straight up retro 60's pop-rock jangles, depending on the track. Rollicking album opener "Feel Alright" smothers Gin and Ko Ko's words with a bit too much dirty buzz, though the intense vocal sentiment shines through anyways thanks to the band's airtight performance. The Ko Ko fronted pop gem "How It Is With Me" could easily pass as a Pat Benatar song with slightly different instrumentation, while her 'you-done-me-wrong' inflections on "That Other Girl" give the song a sense of soul as thick as maple syrup.
Gin's "Milk and Sugar" is a damned near perfect pop song, as the head-bobbing verses chug along into a thick, sing-song chorus. Eddie Baranek of The Sights trades vocals with both Gin and Ko Ko while adding a bit of guitar playing to the gritty "Inspired/Admired," though Gin handles the guitar playing quite well by himself on the raucous "I Can't Stand It."
The songs are catchy and the performances are inspired, making this a solid album that blends its various styles well. Granted, the production work on a few of the songs seems a bit too 'garage-y' at times, which mucks up the vocals in spots. Despite that minor flaw, though, Gasoline serves as a healthy dose of fuel to the Detroit rock scene.