New Music

A Good Start for The Bad Ends

New Music: The Bad Ends, The Power and The Glory (New West Records)

For those who have not experienced a live Five Eight show, you cannot comprehend the heart and soul of singer-guitarist Mike Mantione. He leaves his blood, sweat, and tears on the stage, never half-assing it. Mantione’s Five Eight has been producing consistently smoldering rock ‘n’ roll since 1989. Fast forward to 2023 and the eminent creation of an Athens supergroup. Along with Mantione is drummer Bill Berry (drums, guitar, electric sitar), in his first band since leaving R.E.M. in 1997. Rounding out the quintet are Dave Domizi (bass, vocals), Geoff Melkonian (keyboards, piano, guitars, vocals), and Christian Lopez (guitars, mandolin, banjo).

“Mile Marker 29” is the rocking kick-off track, surging with R.E.M.-style guitars but in a wholeheartedly Bad Ends-style. Produced by Mike Albanese at his Espresso Machine Studio in Athens, The Power and The Glory‘s first single is the catchy “All Your Friends Are Dying.” The song addresses losing friends and family, while facing one’s own mortality. The song is a grand ode to a Big Star show, namedropping Jody Stephens and openers The Glands, straight outta Athens, “And before Big Star came on / The Glands opened up the show / And Frank played his SG again / And it really gave me a thrill.” “Left Behind” slows way down, highlighting Mantiones’ kinder, gentler side. It’s a most beautiful dark hymn.

The Bad Ends, “All Your Friends Are Dying”

The sound of The Power and The Glory seems to have launched from left field. A band sprung from some unfamiliar place yet wielding the sonic prowess of a group exhibiting the tight and right sounds of grizzled music veterans (which collectively, they are). “Thanksgiving 1915” is comfort food for the ears, a song which, “goes out to the ones you left behind,” ending with a Five Eight flair. Mantione sings, “I’m thinking that I missed your call / Don’t want to miss it again / To tell them nothing in particular / To sing to them of bad ends.”

The steamy instrumental “Ode to José” showcases the parts making the whole of the band. A melancholic sound which could be a soundtrack to a rainy day. “The Ballad of Satan’s Bride” is a most nefarious tune, telling the story of a car crash which kills a man, who’s bride then hooks up with Satan in her drunken grief. Drive-By Trucker John Neff lent his pedal steel to “Ode to José” and “Little Black Cloud,” a wondrous gem which was the first song Mantione sent to Berry after a chance meeting on the streets of Athens. Berry was later purported to say, “I’m in a band again!”

“Honestly” is a mid-tempo rocker, presenting some grungy fuzz guitars and equally terrific background vocals. The beauty of a closer is “New York Murder Suicide,” highlighting Mantione’s echoey serenade visualizing a story of familial pain. Such life experiences have fueled the singer’s songwriting quite frequently over the decades. The anguished whistling at the end crystalizes the tune.

Beyond the “supergroup” talk exists a genuinely terrific album created by five excessively talented musicians. The Power and The Glory is a smart and enjoyable rock ‘n’ roll album. For listening/music investing, visit the band’s Bandcamp page. Don’t miss upcoming album release shows at the famed 40 Watt Club in Athens on January 28 and with drivin’ n’ cryin’ at Variety Playhouse in Atlanta on February 18.

#supportlocalmusic #rocknroll #ripOrt

Categories: New Music

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