Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Guys With Wives ~ Life Is A ...

(Click on heading for official website)
Style: hard rock, blues-rock, Canadian
Label: self-released
Year: 2010
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Members: Travis Haugen ~ vocals/bass/organ
Len Milne ~ guitars
Todd Lesage ~ vocals/drums

Additional: Jaxon Haldane ~ saw

My initial thought within seconds of popping in the GWW CD is how much the singer & even the music sounds like former Rainbow frontman Graham Bonnet, particularly his outstanding solo album The Day I Went Mad. Bonnet has one of those very distinctive voices, often described as 'tuneful shouting', with a particular tone & phrasing that includes lots of stretched notes ... a technique under-utilized by rock's screamers outside of Bonnet, Nadir D'Priest & a few others ... with a sound & style that I've never heard anyone else come close to in a field where all rock singers sound like Robert Plant, that is, until now. It's almost uncanny the similiarities. But, while Bonnet reaches into the upper tenor GWW's primary singer Travis Haugen is just as tuneful but deeper, more animalistic & bluesy & avoids some of the highs Bonnet likes to over-indulge in. Further, the music behind the voice avoids the 80's keyboard moments that hurt more than a few of Bonnet's albums aiming just for in your face hard rock with lots of melody & great arrangements with highs, lows & variety. One will be immediately addicted to GWW within a few songs. Warning: repeated listens will be unavoidable. Even after I write this review I plan to listen again, something I don't usually do as I move to the next band. The first time I heard GWW it was just a couple songs in a deliberately critical setting. I had some confusion over exactly what their lyrics were about. I knew it was socially focused but they were a bit too vague for me & I even misinterpretted them as being about racial issues & coming out of a band more akin to Living Colour, but they also had a visual appeal akin to Jim Steinman that I liked with such lines as "wing blowing ... land blowing again behind the empty sheds & you & I running ..." from "Give It Up". You can see it & feel it & that's far better than so many of the 'you & me forever, baby' lyrics that rock bands pour out with ... heartless ... abandon. I will also say that after hearing but two songs the only problem I faced outside of the lyrics was my embarressment at not being able to criticize anything else though they asked for an honest criticism & I could only drag my tail & ask for a copy of Life Is A .... The band is amazing with lots of texture & just enough ornamentation. They draw on the same blues-rock feeling as Cream with a lot of modern rock thrown in, while not over-doing like many blues-rock bands that end up leaning too far to the downhome blues becoming the Eagles or Gov't Mule. Though, I will say, 15 songs does sound a bit long making the album a bit weaker than it really is. Sometimes 15 is a perfect number, but GWW knock you out so fast so soon that a few weaker tracks in the second half make it seem a bit long. You won't see GWW on MTV or in Rolling Stone magazine & they probably don't ever tour much outside of their immediate area, but hunting up their album will be well worth it as they are the reason that I split this review blog between mainstream & independent releases. You come at an unknown band with no expectations & get blown away far faster than the Hollywood based bands that spent way too much money on fanfare & cashing in on their reputation & should have put it instead towards playing music ... again.

(featured on the Roman Midnight Music CD Reviews & Interviews podcast: episode 45 & 46 (2 part) "Interview: Guys With Wives," March 2012, click here to listen)

(no music video available)

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