A fair while ago I received an email from a friendly musician by the name of Frank (Hi, Friendly Frank!). Frank is in a band called Travel Lanes, and he told me about their debut mini-album, Hey, Hey, It’s Travel Lanes!. Frank calls it an EP, but it has seven songs.
This is my definition of what is or isn’t in the world of packaged music:
1-2 songs: single
3-5 songs: EP
6-9 songs: Mini-album
10 or more songs: Album
30 or more songs: Please stop recording
OK. Here’s the mini-album:
Travel Lanes – Hey, Hey, It’s Travel Lanes (2013)
1. “Scared Of Girls”
As soon as this track started, with its driving beat and insistent snare drum, I was reminded of two other songs: “In The Wild” by the Hoodoo Gurus; and “R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A.” by John Mellencamp. Those tracks from the 1980s, and this new one from the non-1980s, all reminded me that I was in a pub rock band for most of the ’80s.
I must clarify for anyone reading this who might be living in the U.S. of Americans and slightly baffled by the terminology, a pub rock band is the Australian term for a bar band.
When the singing in “Scared Of Girls” began (at 0:10) my feelings of pub rockiness intensified. I sat in my chair thinking, “Wow, this is such a pub rock song.”
I must make my comments about these songs shorter. Otherwise, I’m going to spend way too much time writing this post, and you’re not going to be interested in reading it. I’ve already spent too much time on this first song, and…
(Note to self: Stop rambling. Just get on with it.)
Anyway, the short comment for “Scared Of Girls” is that it’s a pub rock song, pure and simple.
By the way, setting aside the kind of song it is, I think it’s well recorded. I can hear all instruments clearly. (I especially like the sound of the bass guitar.)
Overall, however, as a song I don’t think it’s all that great. It doesn’t leap out at me as something extra-special.
2. “The Other Side”
Another pub rock song. But I’m immediately preferring this to “Scared Of Girls”, even though the guitar in the left channel is a little out of tune when it’s playing its riffs (and I could hear a dud note in the chord played at 1:01).
By the way, when the middle eight came along (at 2:23), the combination of the singer’s voice and the music reminded me of John Hiatt.
A couple of trivial things I noticed in the bit after the middle eight (2:44-3:01):
1) One of the disadvantages of the guitar in the left channel being out of tune can be heard from 2:46-2:48, where the guitarist plays a D chord that sounds like it’s oscillating (i.e., it’s wobbly). I don’t think that’s a very nice sound for a D chord to make.
2) The chord played directly after that wobbly one is an F sharp with open E and B strings. That’s The Rush Chord™, and I love it. Rush play it in their songs a lot. It looks like this:
I love that Rush chord so much that I’ll extract the one played by Travel Lanes in “The Other Side” and highlight it for you:
Travel Lanes playing The Rush Chord™
The out-of-tune guitar came back after the middle eight (from 3:01 onwards). I didn’t mind it so much for a while because it was in the left channel and not very loud. Unfortunately, at 3:16 it moved to the centre of the soundstage, increased in volume, and became annoyingly out of tune.
I hope the guitars in the next song are in tune.
3. “Rainy Day”
A non-pub rock song. Hurrah!
(Sorry about the enthusiasm there. I was just pleased that I wasn’t going to hear an entire album of pub rock.)
I like the hint of bossa nova in the drum beat.
I think I can describe this song as Travel Lanes being “smoooooth” (yes, with five “o”s.)
And in the time it took for me to type those words about this song, it finished.
That was pleasant.
I’m glad this starts with an acoustic guitar. (I was a little afraid that the album was going to return to… you know.)
I’m enjoying “Intervention”. I like the relaxed nature of it. And I like the major seventh chords.
Oh-oh. An out-of-tune guitar solo (2:01-2:10). At least it was a very short guitar solo. (But that first note – Ugh.)
I enjoyed “Intervention”.
Another relaxed-ish song. I’m enjoying this as well. Not as much as “Intervention”, but it’s alright. And it’s reminding me of Nick Lowe. I can imagine Nick Lowe recording this.
Now, I don’t have the lyrics for this song in front of me, so I’m a bit puzzled by what I’m hearing from the singer. In the choruses, the singer repeats what I think is “I wouldn’t be an adjudicated delinquent”. Now, I’m pretty sure the word “delinquent” is correct (it being the name of the song and all), but “adjudicated”? Is that right? Can someone be “an adjudicated delinquent”?
Never mind. The song finished. Next song.
6. “She’s The One”
Up until now, I had been resisting the urge to say that this mini-album had a tinge of roots rock about it, but here’s a fairly overt country-inflected song. And it’s fun.
7. “Let You Down”
The distorted guitars have returned. This track isn’t pub rock so much as garage rock. It’s probably my least favourite song on the album. It ain’t doin’ nothin’ for me. I’m just sitting here, waiting for it to finish.
Now that I’ve heard Hey, Hey, It’s Travel Lanes!, I think I’m now in a much better position to tell you what I think of it.
I think it’s an album you might like. As for me, I didn’t love it – but I didn’t loathe it either.
Oops. I forgot to mention earlier that Frank wanted me to include the following information:
Travel Lanes are a band with a past. Former Flight of Mavis / Buzz Zeemer frontman Frank Brown has joined forces with John Bicer, Mitch Cojocariu, and Derek Feinberg to create a power pop manifesto. Hey, Hey, It’s Travel Lanes was recorded on a whim… or at least half a whim. It’s seven songs reflect rock’s past as well as its future. Travel Lanes hail from Philadelphia with only one wish……your time……and maybe a few bucks so they can record a few more tunes. Take a listen.
After making his mark with Flight of Mavis and Buzz Zeemer, Frank Brown is back with Travel Lanes. On the local quartet’s terrific debut EP, Hey, Hey, It’s Travel Lanes!, the singer, guitarist, and songwriter shows he’s lost none of his gift for the kind of crisply melodic songcraft and intelligent writing that marked the well-regarded work of his earlier bands. Bookends “Scared of Girls” and “Let You Down” rock with a tough edge, while numbers such as “Rainy Day” and “Intervention” bring a slightly sweeter and poppier side to the fore. And fitting seamlessly among the six Brown originals is a cover of the Ramones’ “She’s The One.”
– Nick Cristiano Philadelphia Inquirer
Ah well. Better later than later.