Friday, September 27, 2013

Soda and His Million Piece Band

Soda Gardocki is a Tom Waits-ian character that has moved back and forth between LA & Chicago (last I heard, his current location) and has released a couple of albums, this being his debut. He works with numerous musicians (hence the band name) and mixes up genres to create a sound that it truly difficult to put into words.

The opener here, "You Cheat", is a dynamic rocker with a simple riff and a smokin' sax that combines 50's r'n'r with Detroit high-energy. This is followed by an old-timey number, "July", complete with accordion, mandolin, banjo, fiddle and lord knows what else he pulls out of his million pieces. Hard to describe what he comes up with here - Tom Waits is an obvious influence, but without his Beat/Jazz touches or pure noise. "Mystery Song" brings in a multi-piece horn section to its speakeasy-sounding rhythm while "Liza Jane" (not the song that David Bowie did as David Jones in the 60's) is a swaying, sea-chanty-like, sing-along. Kinda similar, "Lakeshore" is a bit of a folk ballad, with a fine melody, showing the range in Soda's gruff but emotional vocals. Starting with some jazzy guitar, "Christine" then adds mandolin, more guitar, percussion and then an over-driven harmonica for a rollickin' blues/jazz/whatever hybrid that typifies the best of Soda's sound. "Dirty Old Town" is a sweet ballad with a nice descending progression led by guitar, accordion and fiddle, relating a tale - as best I can tell - of waking up from a drunken blackout in the gutter during a Chicago winter - making this death-defying feet sound practically romantic! Returning to the feel of "You Cheat", "Moonlight Drive" is an upbeat rocker with prominent sax, good dynamics, and a good layering of vocals and instruments. "Sinnerman" sounds like it could be a traditional, minor-key folk number and is given a good arrangement with somewhat sparse banjo-picking, slide guitar and Leonard Cohen-esque backing vocals. The proceeding end with a wild reading of "Who Do You Love", here titled "Cabbagetown Breakdown - WDYL" - certainly one of the most original arrangements of a Bo Diddley song that I've ever heard! Fantastically noisy and intense with crazed fuzz guitar - maniacal!

Fans of Waits would most likely dig this, but I think he has a wider appeal since Soda doesn't have Waits' early Beat persona or his later, eclectic wackiness. A really fine songwriter who has managed to create truly interesting and diverse arrangements.