Little known fact: while Weezer was preparing to record “The Blue Album,” they took singing lessons to practice and perfect the harmonies Rivers was writing. Out of those sessions came a track featured as the Australian B-side for “Undone” – “My Evaline.” It’s a short a-capella number that features the group doing their best barbershop quartet and showcases a bit of the band’s musical DNA that is usually overlooked in favor of references to the KISS and Metallica strands.
I imagine one of the two members of The Haunted Continents heard that track and wanted to see what Weezer would sound like if they’d ran with the 50s doo-wop/barbershop sound and added fuzz and distortion without any of the metal touches. The Gaslight Anthem is blowing up with their Springsteen-in-the-50s act, so why not pay Buddy Holly a little more than lip service?
Good news: it works really, really well. Where The Gaslight Anthem only plays with lyrical and visual touchstones from the 50s, The Haunted Continents take actual musical elements from the era and re-purpose them to create songs in a more modern indie mold. Vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Jason Downes and drummer/percussionist Matt Cascella keep the tunes catchy and sharp throughout their debut The Loudest Year Ever. Much of the modern feel comes from the clean production and bright mix that keeps all the elements of the band’s sound balanced, but if it weren’t for that, you’d be forgiven for thinking a track like “Acceptance” comes straight out of a different time and place.
What’s particularly awesome about what the band is doing is how it can help someone like myself re-examine and re-contextualize music that was created decades before I was born. Put tracks like “Way Down” or “Cure for the Blues,” (maybe the album’s best track – listen below) in a mix with Jerry Lee Lewis, The Coasters and Sam Cooke and note how similar elements of the vocal performances and instrumentation are. Listening to opener “2nd Street Blues” take old sounds and make them screamingly fresh, makes it easy to imagine – hear, even – what a blast of exciting energy someone like Jerry Lee Lewis must have been in his time.
The album can be purchased on BandCamp here, and while dropping some cash on The Haunted Continents recorded material is well worth it (seriously, it’s the cost of a good sandwich), I’m gonna take a wild guess that they’d absolutely kick your ass at a live show. It’s hard to listen to the grungy guitar tones of the aforementioned “2nd Street Blues” and not imagine that thick, bellowing riff blasting off a stage and ripping the paint from the walls of a small bar. Downes’ voice – warbling in its high register and crooning when lower – is absolutely begging to rip free.
Here’s hoping they come through LA and I can find out if I’m right.
“Cure For the Blues”:
By: Chris Cullari | Beat-Play Ambassador Los Angeles | @ChriswithMWL|Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC