Hughes rocks it out ‘70s style, Side Affect wants us all dreaming
Hot Damn…Boogie Woogie
Tomcat Hughes is one hell of a guitar player. He writes loud, fun, raucous and energetic songs. He’s bringing it all back from the ‘70s: the loud, crunchy guitars, the simple delight or a crash cymbal rhythm on the drum set, head banging along to some nut on the steel guitar all while having a great time doing it all and putting it down for people to pick up and get down to.
Hughes is a member of Polecat Boogie Revival, Lookout MTN Daredevils, Hellstomper and a few others, so you can tell from the get-go that him and his bandmates are just letting it fly on Hot Damn…Boogie Woogie, a seven-track EP that is as delightful as it is hard rocking.
What a listener will first notice about Hot Damn is the guitar playing. It changes tones, pace and expression from song to song, sometimes verse to verse. It’s exceptional and raw. The roots are steeped in blues, harking back to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tom Waits and early influences such as the White Stripes and The Black Keys.
But make no mistake, Hughes and Co. are not trying to do too much or recreate the wheel. They’re in a room and they’re jamming out. In one of the albums many highlights, “Black Cat Moan,” he howls “Sunshine coming over the hills and through my window pain, might as well be pain. Got the black cat moans.” It’s best not to read too much into this because no one knows what the hell he means, but he sure means it.
It’d be easy for me to pick out standouts because there are seven of them from top to bottom. Hughes goes after everything in “Bound to Come Down,” slows it down to a crooning, acoustic slur in “You Got the Silver,” and asks the important question, “Did you ever wake up with them bullfrogs on yo’ mind?” on “Bullfrog Blues.” Ever have the Bullfrog Blues? Me either. Until now.
L O V I N G Y O U
There’s a lot to say about the electronic craze that has taken over the self-producing music scene. It’s the culture, the power of the internet, the autonomy that comes with technology these days that is at our fingertips. Anyone can be a producer/songwriter/musician when sitting in front of the right tools. But not everyone can master those same set of tools the way Side Affect can.
Side Affect is a pop dream experimental-rock group (lead by Chris Johnson) from Chattanooga that relies heavily on live instrumentation recorded and played through today’s mechanics and machines. Using old-school songwriting techniques as well as new-school rules, Side Affect toes the line with innovation and folk.
In tracks like “STAY” and “NIGHTLIFE,” the lead singer sings of disappointment and continuation, pleading for a lover’s hand, her understanding of a lost love in difficult times, and his inhibition to stick around. What is impressive in most of these songs is the dilutive characteristics of the music. The vibrant rhythm of each verse changes between song and even verse, making the album complex and indifferent to itself.
Because listening to a lot of these “types” of albums, some can get stuck in the mud of “electronic, indie and/or alternative,” but this one undoubtedly stands on its own because of the genuine mix of playing vs. computer. There’s an earnest vibe to every track, no matter how similar or different the content seems to inhabit.
Another standout is “BROADWAY,” a dreamy and mystical tune about a trip down Broadway Ave. in Manhattan, full of dreams, expectations, and crushed realities that is built on a driving groove and doesn’t land on a happy ending. And that’s not what Side Affect seems to find important. These are somber, misanthropic songs about missed love, lost dreams and full, optimistic expectations. It’s dream pop, after all. Let us all dream together.