Bandleader, Coal, Pressure, Time | Music Feature | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Bandleader, Coal, Pressure, Time 

Album Review

Published October 23, 2013 at 9:07 a.m.


(Self-released, CD, digital download)

With the title of their debut record, Coal, Pressure, Time, Burlington’s Bandleader invoke the process of turning coal into a diamond. But they could well be describing the record itself. The 10 songs contained herein all begin with a solid foundation in rock — and in various subgenres, from 1990s alt-rock, to Pavement-y indie rock to straight-up hard rock. The band builds pressure through tense arrangements and emotionally forthright lyrics. And the players are not afraid to take a little time to stretch out, to meander outside of time-honored rock frameworks. The question, then, is whether Bandleader have produced a diamond or a cubic zirconium.

The record opens on “Rhythmic Misstep,” a swaying little cut that trades equally on a lilting Tex-Mex vibe and a thoughtful lyrical bent couched in a slacker delivery. From the outset, lead vocalist Patrick McCormack presents a compelling figure, combining sly poetics with a laid-back reserve. He’s also a versatile singer, moving from a deliberate baritone on the opener to a looser, throatier tack on the following cut, “Satisfy Your Heart.”

That song is also a fine example of Bandleader’s compositional ability, balancing mid-tempo garage-rock bombast with delicate guitar atmospherics, courtesy of Alex Cseh. There’s an intriguing contrast between hard and soft — a condition mirrored in McCormack’s wordplay, which ably tempers post-breakup anger with an undercurrent of lingering regret.

The record’s lead single, “Return to Me,” released in advance of the record last month, mines 1990s alt-rock in both feel and attitude — these ears are reminded of post-grunge outfit the Toadies, which is a good thing.

The title track is perhaps the most artistically anomalous cut of the bunch, and, given its mild shades of gypsy punk, a stylistic reach. Bandleader get bonus points for experimenting, but without much of a hook or resolution, the cut is kind of boring.

The band rebounds on the album’s second half. In particular, the schizo but danceable “Thicker Skin” is a highlight, crammed with as many stylistic twists and turns in four minutes as some bands manage on an entire record.

So have Bandleader produced a diamond on Coal, Pressure, Time? While not exactly producing a priceless gem, they’ve come pretty close. This debut is a solid effort with some truly standout moments, suggesting good things to come from a promising new group.

Coal, Pressure, Time by Bandleader is available at Bandleader play an album-release show at the Monkey House in Winooski on Saturday, October 26.  

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About The Author

Dan Bolles

Dan Bolles

Dan Bolles is Seven Days' assistant arts editor and also edits What's Good, the annual city guide to Burlington. He has received numerous state, regional and national awards for his coverage of the arts, music, sports and culture. He loves dogs, dark beer and the Boston Red Sox.


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