Your crusty chronicler is an individual who does his own thing. Still, when Examiner asked for support for their new “List” format, it was nigh impossible not to be open-minded about it. So, with that spirit of unity in mind, your rockin’ reviewer presents this series—“Track by Track” in which we review certain select CDs literally “track by track”.
In this edition we (ahem) examine Haymaker’s new disc NOW NOW NOW. Not to be confused with the newer, Canadian rock band of the same name, Haymaker is a California-based band founded in 2001 by singer-songwriters J.W. Surge (guitar and vocals) and Mike Jacoby (guitar and vocals). The group also includes L.A. singer-songwriter David Serby (bass and backing vocals) and former Hacienda Brother Dale Daniel (drums). On this release the quartet is assisted by producer Ed Tree (Hammond B-3, Wurlitzer and Farfisa).
Haymaker is a part of L.A.’s emerging Americana/alt country scene. They specialize in “alt countrified cover tunes and mix roots rock with “countrified pop. “
(Please view the picture list to learn more about their music.)
The album lead-in is titled “Different Girl”. This country-pickin’ album opener, written by Surge and Jacoby, includes some noteworthy harmonies and a universal message about some women. Everyone knows girls like the one described in these lyrics. You know, she’s one way with the boyfriend and totally different with others. When she is with her man she’s “just tired’ but when she’s out with others”she’s a real live wire.”
“Just Like Me” and “Stomp The Gas”
The second selection, “Just Like Me”, is also by Surge and Jacoby and has some great lines: “Don’t you know we got a lot in common/ Prozac, therapy . . . Oh can’t you see/Oh can’t you see/You’re f*cked up just like me”. Nobody’s perfect. The next number is “Stomp The Gas”.
It’s the first example of what Jacoby can write by himself. This one moves too but in a slightly different direction. The clever lyrics are still there of course but it just a little rougher. It’s a rock-roadhouse type of tune about getting out there and doing things.
“Leave For Awhile”
“Leave For Awhile” follows and is also a solo Surge composition. It’s a mid-tempo, kick it cut about getting away from the trials and tribulations of real life. Here a couple considers leaving town for awhile (and maybe even for good as the story progresses Ah but that’s a dream that not all can make a reality. The lyrics betray them: “We never left but we’re really not here”. This is yet another feeling to which many can relate.
“Note To Self”
“Note To Self”, another Jacoby-penned piece, is next here. There is something about this track that is oddly reminiscent of lesser known Rolling Stones material. It just has that certain je ne sais quoi if you will and is certainly one of the best cuts on the disc hands down.
“Now Now Now”
“Now Now Now” is next, next, next. The titular track was written by Surge and if you had been wondering about the peculiar album title this one explains it all. This one is a bit of a demanding and insistent tune much as the main character in the song is. It stands up to their claim of being a “rollicking” track.
“Threadbare Heart” was also written by Surge. Right from the start the listener knows this song involves a woman. Come on, just look at the title and it should be no surprise. The question is: will things work out? Yeah, maybe we have heard this before but again if the band personalizes it and makes it their own that makes all the difference.
“Lie In Bed”
“Lie In Bed” is a Jacoby song and yet another track that seems influenced by The Rolling Stones. You can almost hear Mick Jagger singing this one. It is also the group’s first ballad and perhaps the best track on the whole CD. It’s got great commercial crossover potential and every band needs a ballad. Ballads get babes.
”Marisol”, a Surge-Jacoby song, has a lot going on and the lyrics even contain clues to the song’s setting. It’s a nice country rocker with the perquisite mention of drinking and a small-town gal thrown in for good measure. Again, the band is able to own the idea and thus make the track interesting and not overly commonplace.
“I’m Not Talking” and “You’re Really Good”
The band keeps driving on the following song titled “I’m Not Talking”. This is the final Jacoby solo composition and features Carl Byron on Hammond B-3. Also included here is the last solo work by Surge. It’s called “You’re Really Good” and offers a nice balance to the previous piece despite the fact that it too deals with an almost prerequisite subject (i.e. a meaningless relationship).
The album’s end-note is “Without You”. It’s an apropos ending once more teaming up the pair of guitar-playing penmen to demonstrate their songwriting skills but what the band can do in making the music real. The music is both fresh and familiar with influences from such a wide array of artists as the Old 97s, the Del Fuegos, the BoDeans, Bob Dylan, the Replacements, Wilco and Dwight Yoakam.
Just when one thinks he has them cornered, the music goes off in a different direction. Perhaps this is why they aren’t considered a true country act. Surge elaborates: “Honestly, we don’t think about it that much. We do what we do. We write songs and we record them . . .”
Check out Haymaker’s NOW NOW NOW. If you like it, you can send them an e-mail and say: “You’re Really Good”.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.