BAND: the amplifier heads
reviewed by NADJA DEE
Artwork by Jim Zaccaria
THE AMPLIFIER HEADS
Sweet Bread Songs ASCAP
Musicians: Sal Baglio (Guitars, Bass and Vocals)
Ducky Carlisle (Drums and Percussion)
Jeff Keithline (Bass)
Paul Ahlstrand (Sax)
Paul Armstrong (Vocals)
Margie Finer (Vocals)
Brad Hallen (Bass)
Marty Richards (Drums)
Producers: Sal Baglio and Ducky Carlisle
Recorded and Mixed: Ice Station Zebra
Words and Music: Salvatore Baglio
In the world of Sal Baglio, people have very strange heads and those heads are full of manifested dreams.
Now, that may sound like the start of a Dr. Seuss novel, but it's not. In fact, it's the setting of last year's 2019 album Loudah. That's right, Louder with an "AH" at the end, as if this Boston artist has phonetically spelled out a Kennedy's pronunciation of the word. "I can't hear it Jack, play it LOUDAH!"
The album came out last year, it got attention back then but it seems like it's going around for a second round of well deserved attention once more.
This is the time when I need to point out that this album ISN'T POWER POP. Well, it's not ALL Power Pop, but there are a few strong pop, melodic elements and it's got Power to spare. At Hop On Power Pop, we try to focus on Power Pop albums, but this album is so well done, that it's earned a place here.
It's no surprise because neither Sal Baglio or Ducky Carlisle aren't new to music. Sal Baglio and Mark Cuccinello formed The Stompers all the way back in 1977. They released "Stompilation"an 18 track anthology of The Stompers 1983-1985 studio recordings back in 2009 and in 2017 celebrated a 40 year anniversary. Ducky Carlisle's name is everywhere! From his work with The Flashcubes (where he stood in for Arty Lenin) to Eric Barao's excellent EP Obsolete that had Ducky performing recording and mixing duties. He's known for working with The Raspberries (Pop Art Live), Popfilter, Rooney, L.E.O. and has worked with both The Pills and The Scheme (Corin Ashley & David Thompson). There's really no stopping him!
The album starts off with The Boy With The Amplifier Head
Every track jumps off the album. It's catchy and instantly hummable. It doesn't take many listens to know these songs, it's as if you've heard them before...but you haven't. The Boy With The Amplifier Head is one of the most Power Poppy songs on the album, right down to the hard rhymes:
neighborhood = no good
you see = let him be
knows = clothes
But then it tricks you, Sal sings
The boy with the amplifier head
Everybody thought that he was born that way
head ≠ way
It's a hint that he's not going to give you what you expect. You expected this to be a Power Pop record? Nope, not really. In Sal's words, it's melodic rock. But then he comes back with:
When they shut him down
He made that awful sound
down = sound
So, yes it's both NOT Power Pop and it's also Power Pop-ish. But, does it really matter? I guess, here it does.
Track #2 and #3 sound more like they belong on a Fabulous Thunderbirds' album than they do a Power Pop record. I wouldn't even qualify them by calling them "melodic rock," these songs are just good solid rock-n-roll. The type of songs I would say are straight forward, ass-kicking music. They have that all American sound, almost countrified rock-n-roll.
Remember the movie, The Blues Brothers? In the movie, the Brothers drive up to Bob's Country Bunker and con their way into stealing the spot booked for The Good Ole Boys. I've always wondered what The Good Ole Boys sounded like because in the movie you never get to hear them play. Well, tracks 2, 3, 9 and 10 are a little bit what I imagined they sounded like, maybe with a little more RAWK thrown in.
Track #4, Who's That Girl? could be a lost Traveling Wilbury's song. It's got that fun, driving She's My Baby vibe. It's easy to imagine Petty and Lynne trading lines with Harrison and Dylan. On a lot of tracks, it's easy to picture Sal Baglio's vocals as a mix between Tom Petty with a bit of Mick Jagger. I've always wished that Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan (along with drummer Jim Keltner) would continue the Wilbury's legacy with new members. I've always thought that Roger McGuinn would make a great Wilbury, but with the passing of Orbison, Harrison and Petty, they would need 2 more members. My vote is to have Jeff Lynne continue including Dhani Harrison and let's go ahead and add Sal Baglio to this new lineup.
My favorite song is Two Headed Girl. The lyrics spell out how difficult life would be with two heads. Where us single headed mortals take for granted, are huge obstacles for our two headed girl; simple things like finding a pillow, or taking 4 hours just to do your hair. But they went ahead and had 2 kids, which the lyrics refer to as pinhead geeks (one for each head). I wouldn't be surprised if the song was inspired by the Katherine Dunn novel, Geek Love, although there's no 2 headed girl in the novel, just a pair of Siamese twins. (Did you know that a real life, two headed girl exists today? Abigail Loraine Hensel and Brittany Lee Hensel (born March 7, 1990) are American conjoined twins, and have started teaching! How amazing is that?)
The other theme to LOUDAH besides unusual heads is the theme of candy. Sal must have a sweet tooth because there's not just one song about candy (Big Wax Lips) but two (Rock Candy). In fact, I work in a store that sells retro and unique candy.
The place I work sells:
Squirrel Nut Zippers
and....BIG WAX LIPS! (In various flavors even!)
Because of this, I played the song for my boss and he said it would be OK to add the song to our in-store playlist. So, if you're ever in Archie McPhee (Seattle) listen for it!
So all in all, while it may not be Power Pop, it's still a fun, candy filled, double headed album of great rock-n-roll music in the style of The Fabulous Thunderbirds bordering on Buster Poindexter verve, with all the swagger of Mick Jagger. Then other times it's as Power Pop as The Traveling Wilburys.
Highly recommended folks,
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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.
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