Damn Glad, Singer/guitarist/songwriter, Matt Kurzban and drummer, Jeff Baker, founding members of the New Jersey based outfit of rocketeers, just slid their new release “Up Comes Down,” under our door, and it’s undeniably an album of solid rock, in unsteady times.
The stand out track Blink of an Eye, is the signature tune for the ethos of this record; an uplifting respite from the doom of the past few years, it’s a fists in the air soft rock anthem that stomps and chugs along, talking of nostalgia, and how everything could just disappear from beneath our feet, (don’t we know it!) so really… hang in there soldier. “Better Days” is in a similar vein but a more dance-y affair. There is no excuse, not to at least, wiggle your hips in the presence of this song, no matter who you are. Again, it declares that it’s all ahead of us, and coaxes us to hold on, in a bouncy Yacht Rock way. “Funraiser” gets a little, Red Hot Chile Peppers-ish, in it’s spinning around the funk skating rink, and doesn’t disappoint in that arena. It’s a track that ably displays what this band can do when it stretches itself a little. “Hot Cake” takes on, the online dating experience, not all that convincingly, until you get exposed to the infectious chorus. It would do David Lee Roth proud in its, tongue in cheekiness. “How Am I Supposed To?” could be a Flaming Lips song, as it slips and slides around harmoniously, and has more of the dreamy pop sound that is in favor at the moment. It closes out the record beautifully, and leaves me wanting to hear a bit more in this vein.
Damn Glad have moments when they could descend into the swamp of average blues bands, but don’t. The musicianship is superb, the arrangements and studio mastery all push the envelope just that little bit more, with sweeping sonic vistas, snarling vocals, attitudinal rock elements from mid to late 80s and early 90s chart heros, like their hometown icons, Bon Jovi, or Brit rockers, Def Leppard. But therein, also lies some of the issue with their voyage. It’s kind of an older take on rock and roll, one that I’m not sure is going to drag in much in the way of new support. Damn Glad represent an MTV aesthetic of a time. Despite the excellent execution, the band leans too much into each of its favorite genres of decades long gone by, and tries to take in too much of the nostalgia they felt for quite a number of bands of that period. They are British hard rock invaders one moment, dark 90’s grunge rock, another, then Huey Lewis and on and on? It’s solid, oh so solid, but just not cohesive, and just not especially ground-breaking.
This is not at all to say that this is not an excellent band, or a very adequate record. It totally is both of those things. The Damn Glad crew has the ability to take on anything it pleases. These guys could back up anyone admirably. But they seem to be trying to get ready to do just that; dragging in all their influences over 30-40 years of music listening. Perhaps for the next record, they should not listen to any other albums for a while, and see what comes to them. I feel that if they were to attempt to create their own genre, instead of expertly championing the sounds of all the others they love, they could just come up with something unique, and perhaps even quite exceptional. They have the chops to do it, without an ounce of a doubt.
In fairness, it may not be a sound that is in vogue right now, but Damn Glad are definitely damn good at doing it, and “Up Comes Down” will surely please the regional fans who, I’m sure, love to see them come to town.