The frustration of being pigeonholed can tear a band apart. It’s easy to forget musicians’ influences are drawn from all kinds of genres, and that their interests tend to spill well outside the group that puts them in the spotlight. Day in, day out, they beat the pavement to a pulp to try and make (or keep) a name with the same handful of bandmates and songs, playing to crowds who expect – demand, actually – the sound they first fell in love with.
It’s no wonder so many bands splinter into side projects, solo albums and straight out meltdowns.
Person L’s Kenny Vasoli is one of these musicians. He avoided the meltdown, but after his first band – The Starting Line – dissolved after their album, “Direction,” didn’t do well, he shed his radio-ready skin and exposed a more mature, unpredictable artist than the guy that wrote the pop-punk classic “Best of Me.” Much like ex-Drive Thru Records label mate Ace Enders (who ended his own group, The Early November, around the same time) there was always a hint that Kenny’s musical mind was functioning on a different plane than his peers’. Whether it was the surprisingly raw lyrics of “Bedroom Talk,” or the complex layers of “Island,” even The Starting Line’s singles veered away from “standard.”
Here, on his second full length as Person L, “The Positives,” Vasoli dabbles in lyrically light instrumental rock on the opening track “Hole in the Fence,” before pivoting into “Good Days” and “The Positives,” two cuts that take cues from midwestern 90’s emo. The latter opens with a guitar triplet and noodly organ that sounds like someone chopped and screwed an America Football track.
All this leads to the track that stands as the beating heart of the whole endeavor; the one that burrows in the brain and kicks it straight in the pleasure center: “Goodness Gracious.” This is the kind of reinvention that most frustrated pop artists can only dream about. Sure, Vasoli released an album and three tracks worth of great music between the death of The Starting Line and this, but here is where he finds his new voice. The track makes full use of the unique grit n’ howl in his throat and pairs it with an amazingly dirty riff that calls to mind the exciting, bluesy simplicity of a Hendrix line. The guitars are gloriously distorted and fuzzy, so much so that they create their own feedback in the opening four count. There’re horns, shouts, and even some sort of deadened cowbell around 1:25 that adds to the frenetic, danceable energy.
Take a listen:
He follows this up with the sock hop chord progression of “New Sensations,” that sounds like it has a Chuck Berry co-write, and from there the album trails back off into more experimental territory. While enjoyable, nothing else comes close to the one-two punch of these tracks.
Whether Person L’s next release remains as scattered, or if it will it focus on the blues elements that prove most successful here remains to be seen, but it’s definitely something to listen for.
By: Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles | @ChriswithMWL | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC