DOWNTIME

ALBUM: DOWNTIME
BAND: NICK PIUNTI &

                      THE COMPLICATED MEN
YEAR: 5/22/2020
 

reviewed by NADJA DEE

NICK PIUNTI

DOWNTIME

Released 5/22/2020

JEM RECORDS

 

Musicians:         Nick Piunti (Guitar, Vocals)
                           Jeff Hupp (Bass, Vocals)
                           Ron Vensko (Drums)
                           Kevin Darnall (Keyboards)

Special guests:  Ryan Allen (Guitar, Harmony Vocals, Percussion)
                            Chris Plum (Harmony Vocals, Percussion, Synthesizer)

Recording & Mixing: Geoff Michael

Producers: Geoff Michael & NP & TCM

Mastering: Jim Kissling

Studio: Big Sky Recording (Ann Arbor, MI)

It's not easy to review an album during this once-in-a-lifetime, or at least a once-in-MY-lifetime, event. It feels like every song, somehow, relates to the quarantine and losing good people like Adam Schlesinger or Matthew Seligman from this virus. Because I listen to a lot of music on an electronic device, it often shuffles the order of songs. On this particular day, it started playing ALL OVER AGAIN. 

Track #5 All Over Again

All Over Again

There's lyrics like:

Put a stop to this before you go

I wanna  go back to the dream where you came from

I don't want to lose you all over again

Don't wanna live a life that's just good enough

I don't wanna lose you all over again

And how can you NOT think about the crisis that the entire world is going through with thoss lyrics. BUT, these songs were not written during the pandemic. They were released AFTER this whole thing started, so unless Mr. Piunti is some sort of modern day Nostradamus, there's no way he was writing about COVID-19.

But if he was, then the lyric "It don't mean a thing, I know it can't defeat us," sure packs a powerful message. 

Even the title, DOWNTIME, seems oddly prophetic.  It also makes me think of Lannie Flower's brilliant, career defining album, HOME, which couldn't have a more fitting title at this moment in history. But like Lannie Flowers' album, Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men's debut album DOWNTIME is also the work from a seasoned, developed musician who plays his instrument like a skilled surgeon, every note placed precisely, nothing wasted or left to chance. Even though this is the first album from Nick Piunti AND The Complicated Men, you know when you listen to an album like this, that it's not a freshman project. (There's been 5 releases prior to DOWNTIME for those who are counting). Sure, it's the first time that Nick Piunti has assembled this cast of men (Who for some reason are "complicated." I've met a lot of men, most of them aren't complicated) you can tell, these guys have done this before.  DOWNTIME also finds Nick Piunti once again working with Geoff Michael and Jim Kissling at Big Sky Recording just as he did on the last album, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.

That being said, I normally listen to albums for review on my drive to and from work. But I haven't been doing that commute these days, so instead, it's been on our daily walks with the furry daughter. But on the last few walks, I felt like this album isn't very Power Pop. Then the next day, I'd listen and walk and think, wait, yes this is just as Power Pop as the rest of the music in this genre.

I think the reason I felt this way is that DOWNTIME is a reserved work of art. It doesn't have the youthful angst that you'd find in seminal Power Pop albums from songwriters still going through puberty. Take the youthful energy in Shake Some Action which you could tell was written by a 19 year old (Cyril Jordan), or Paul Collins writing Rock N Roll Girl at 23. These songs have an extra spark that only comes through when you're still battling hormones and acne. 

The song, Going Nowhere, certainly has high energy, but even that feels a bit reserved. That's not a bad thing, it's just a youth driven song as done by an elder statesman, or as the song says, as done by "the Captain of this ship, going nowhere."

Track #4 Going Nowhere

Going Nowhere

The first two tracks are not only the strongest "hits" on the album, complete with memorable hooks, they're also the most Power Pop songs. They come close to my favorite Nick Piunti song, One Hit Wonder (Off TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS)

Track #1 Upper Hand

Track #2 Bright Light

Track #2 One Hit Wonder (Off Trust Your Instincts)

Bright Light
One Hit Wonder

He slows it down a little bit by song #3, Every High, which could easily be a cover of a David Brookings tune, one that he left off SCORPIO MONOLOGUE, even down to the vocal quality which shares it's chops against some of his best songs. Nick Piunti's voice has been compared to Bryan Adams but I hear more Brookings than Bryan in his vocal tones.  Plus, even the lyrics in Every High can relate to the pandemic.

Let's see how this plays out

The side of history that's not repeating

We should take a shot

And shock ourselves out of this self-defeating world

Where we came from

We're not the only ones

Track #3 Every High

Every High

It's always bothered me when artists title their album but never include a song with the same title. For example, what does "smelling like teen spirt," have to do with that Nirvana song? The words "smells like teen spirit," never appear in the lyrics that famous song. So when I see an album titled, DOWNTIME, but there's not a song called "Downtime," I felt the same way. But at least Nick Piunti includes the word"downtime" in the track Never Belonged To Me

 

I don't know to do with you darling

I don't know what to say

You've been so busy with your double life

While I bury my troubles in a shallow grave

 

I don't know what to do with the downtime

Wondering where you are

I try to fill the hole where you ripped apart my soul

I thought you had a beating heart

 

 

Track #7 Never Belonged To Me

Never Belonged To Me
All This Time

There's a return to the first two catchy, poppy songs by the time Track #9 All This Time comes around, and I challenge you not to be still be humming "All I want to do is wake up without you on my mind," by the time this song ends. (All I want to do is not be stuck on this ear worm for days after this song is over.)

Track #9 All This Time

By the last track it's obvious this album isn't about a global shutdown, but a shutdown of the human heart, yet even though there's pain, there's also a lot of hope in this album. The closing track Good Intentions leaves us with hope and reflection. It's again another 

serendipitous reminder that this album and the timing of this pandemic have a lot in common. 

One of the things that "downtime" does to most people, is it stops us in our tracks. This time out, gives us each a time to reflect, to pause, to breathe because we aren't going a hundred miles an hour. It's the same thing with this album. Sure, Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men aren't teenagers zooming around at record breaking speeds, they've had time to reflect, to mature and that's something we each could use more of especially during this time. 

If you want to do yourself a favor, pick up Downtime before everything ramps back up to high speed and we all lose sight on what's really important. Nick Piunti's Downtime isn't fast food, it's a nutricious, well balanced meal made by a Master Chef and everyone should have a taste.

AS ALWAYS, PLEASE SUPPORT INDEPENDENT MUSIC!

 

 

 

 

 

 

BUY IT HERE! (May 22, 2020)

https://nickpiuntimusic.bandcamp.com/album/downtime

 

LINKS

https://www.nickpiunti.com/

 

http://www.jemrecordings.com/

DISCLAIMER: HOP ON POWER POP doesn't give stars, a grade or any sort of quantifiable rating. What HOP ON POWER POP does is let you know what H.O.P.P. thought of the music by the band at this particular time. If an album isn't to our liking or fitting into the Power Pop genre enough, we simply won't review it.

                  Go to HOP ON POWER POP ALBUM REVIEW GUIDELINES for more information:

                  https://www.hoponpowerpop.com/albumreviewguidelines

 

Red Record Traffic Warning Sign copy.jpg

NICK PIUNTI

DOWNTIME

Released 5/22/2020

JEM RECORDS

 

Musicians:         Nick Piunti (Guitar, Vocals)
                           Jeff Hupp (Bass, Vocals)
                           Ron Vensko (Drums)
                           Kevin Darnall (Keyboards)

Special guests:  Ryan Allen (Guitar, Harmony Vocals, Percussion)
                            Chris Plum (Harmony Vocals, Percussion, Synthesizer)

Recording & Mixing: Geoff Michael

Producers: Geoff Michael & NP & TCM

Mastering: Jim Kissling

Studio: Big Sky Recording (Ann Arbor, MI)

It's not easy to review an album during this once-in-a-lifetime, or at least a once-in-MY-lifetime, event. It feels like every song, somehow, relates to the quarantine and losing good people like Adam Schlesinger or Matthew Seligman from this virus. Because I listen to a lot of music on an electronic device, it often shuffles the order of songs. On this particular day, it started playing ALL OVER AGAIN. 

Track #5 All Over Again

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