The music is strong, immaculately-performed pre-prog, incorporating heavy, visceral themes with a pop sensibility…
McStine and Minnemann
Randy McStine and Marco Minnemann
10 tracks / 34:30
The self/titled release by guitarist/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Randy McStine and drummer/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Marco Minnemann is a celebration of heavy but intelligent rock and roll (not that the two are always mutually exclusive) featuring ten economically-structured songs that allow the considerable chops of these two artists to shine.
Combining elements of pop, grunge, heavy rock, and prog, the ten songs on this project manage to avoid the excesses of each of these genres by combining the best stylistic elements at hand, trimming the fat, and producing ten memorable, unique tracks coming in at just over a half-hour. Half of the songs are written by McStine, three by Minnemann, and the remaining two co-written by both. The two songwriters meld incredibly well, and the album flows from track to track without a hint of musical schizophrenia.
The music is strong, incorporating heavy, sometimes ominous-sounding themes with a pop sensibility. “Your Offenses” has an amazing, hooky chorus that will stay in your head, not to mention an amazing guitar break that seems to come out of nowhere. The following song, “Catrina,” is a darker, more intricate composition with interesting rhythmic changes and tricky runs that seems to come and go at will.
The over-all effect of the album reminds me of the likes of Adrian Belew (I think that McStine’s vocals are similar), King Crimson, King’s X (maybe they have a thing for Kings!), a hint of Zappa, and the sci/fi, tongue-in-cheek style of Bill Hubauer’s We Came From Space.
Certainly, McStine and Minnemann sound like they’re enjoying themselves - despite some dark lyrics. “Top of the Bucket” concludes with “the system is winning and you might be chosen to lose,” and the line, “why don’t you dance with me,” from “Voyager” (an intricate musical dialog) is delivered as more of a threat than a question. An oasis of calm in the midst of the storm comes in the form of “The Closer,” featuring the only guest, Harry Waters, on piano. “In silence, I can hear your guidance,” sings McStine, “Daring me to dream.” Certainly a more encouraging thought than the first line of “Fly,” which declares. “I’ve got some bad, bad news for you.” Still, the overriding sense of McStine and Minnemann is good, fun, rock music with an edge.
The vocals throughout the project are passionate, sometimes a little frightening, and often layered beautifully with harmony that would make Crosby, Stills, and Nash jealous (“Activate”).
Without question, these two men know how to rock. The classic elements of guitar, bass, and drums have rarely sounded more vital, powerful, or viscerally potent - especially in this context, where quickly-changing soundscapes switch from pop, to heavy rock, to prog, and back before your very ears. The good news is that McStine and Minneman were smart enough to let the playing serve the music instead of making the project a showcase for dazzling guitar wizardry or a drum clinic.
Wonderfully produced by the artists themselves, this is a high-energy debut that will stick with you like M&Ms on a hot day. See what I did there...?
- Bert Saraco
you can see Bert’s concert photography (including some concert shots of Randy McStine) at www.facebook.com/express.image