The 1984 Draft - Makes Good Choices

by Howard Scott Rating:8 Release Date:2018-08-24
The 1984 Draft - Makes Good Choices
The 1984 Draft - Makes Good Choices

A quick look at the historical background of The 1984 Draft would give you a false sense of knowledge regarding their musical styles and tastes. They list The 1980’s Los Angeles Dodgers as an influence on their Facebook bio, and prior releases had the athletic titles of “Heisman Trophy Winner” and “Bo Jackson Up the Middle.” It wouldn’t be a big surprise, therefore, if the band’s latest effort, “The 1984 Draft Makes Good Choices”  (Poptek Records) contained songs with titles like “The Kirk Gibson Shuffle” or “The Ballad of Jim Brown.”

No, boys and girls, none of that is happening here. Instead, what we do get is ten tracks of good old American Rust-Belt-powered rock and roll. You know the kind. Wailing guitars set to eleven on the amps and a Richter scale rhythm section that is taking no prisoners. This quartet from Dayton, Ohio delivers an authoritative reminder that the USA invented rock and roll, and we aren’t about to let the rest of the world forget it.

The opening track lures the listener into submission with a child’s voice singing about “Jan Kowalski” with no rhyme or reason, or any sense of a real beat.  Hopefully, the poor child was whisked away at the twenty-second mark, because that’s when the apocalyptic guitars kick in. Its a quick and easy, down and dirty rocker that gives you a glimpse of the following nine tracks.

“Lately” gives us more in-your-face guitars and highlights the vocals of Joe Andrel.  Andrel needs a strong, distinct voice to duel with the music being created, and he possesses just what the doctor ordered. He has the power of a young Springsteen, combined with the more measured stylishness of Lou Reed, and the mixture works well. It is a bit of a calming influence to counter the manic tremors going on even at the end of his own fingers, as he also handles half of the guitar machinations for the band.

The following cut, “Miss Ohio”, draws the sound down a bit and creates a pleasing melody and plaintive lyrics. You don’t hear a lot of bands lamenting about leaving Ohio, but we all know there’s no place like home!

Speaking of strong lyrics, “Honest” takes the group into a whole different territory. Andrel’s opening vocals lament: “The lines on my face/just prove it’s a young man’s game”. After a few more anatomical landmarks, he follows with “Your face in the crowd/keeps an old man from putting it down”.

Andrel has been in the business for over 20 years, and the pensive melody allows the listener to wonder if he thinks it is time to change careers. It reminded me a bit of a song from Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy recording, “Leaving L.A.”  Aside from being nine full minutes shorter, lacking any string section and never once mentioning a choking child, “Honest” broadcasts the same type of introspection rockers who have been at the game most of their lives must feel when the mirror offers a four-decade-old reflection. It is a fine bit of songwriting, and is worth the price of admission all on its own.

Chip Heck’s bass guitar plucking and the percussion of Justin Satinover come to the forefront on “Megaphone” just before Andrel and fellow guitarist Eli Alban take the guitars back into hyperdrive. Its just plain old three guitars and drums blow-out-the-speakers fun.

The chorus in “Red Dress” sums it up nicely. “With your red dress on/ I knew I was done”. Ah yes, we have all been there, right guys?

The longest cut on the disc, “Lisbon Falls” brings the only hint of any keyboarded instrument into evidence with a mournful organ opening. For the first minute, it sounds like a slower, almost ballad-like closer to the show. Slowly but surely, however, the rest of the band brings their contributions into the mix and turns the tune into a strong and melodious number that gives everyone a chance to shine. Andrel’s range on the vocals, especially, is on full display.

Sixty years ago, the British Invasion caused garages all over the  US to ignite with groups of kids trying to create a wall of sound that would get them noticed. Most only got noticed by local law enforcement. That isn’t to say that The 1984 Draft has created a recording of garage rock, but the roots of the family tree are poking through the soil. The label of “garage rock” can imply a low talent, non-glossy creation of noise, and that certainly isn’t what The 1984 Draft has produced. There is too much evidence here of expertise earned over years of fine-tuning the craft. The recording is highly professional, but it also is gut-punching, ear threatening, we're-an-American-band rock and roll that can’t be created without loads of experience and a great degree of talent.

Another lyric from “Honest” tells the listener: “If it wasn’t for you/ I don’t know if I’d be here right now”.  Stick around guys. The listeners are still here, and “Makes Good Choices” should awaken some who have yet to join the party.

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