July 22nd, 2012 | Published in TCS Reviews
By Pete Roche
The Chromes—led by singer / guitarist Brian Hager (of Vanity Clash)—specialize in the same kind of fuzzy roots rock promulgated by the Rolling Stones back in the early ‘70s. More contemporary analogues include The Rembrandts and Smithereens.
Indeed, the focal point of their new self-titled EP on Love Muffin Records is a cover of “Back of My Hand,” a power-pop hit by short-lived English group The Jags back in 1979. Hager and friends do the John Richard Alder-penned song—which itself owes to the jangly, three-chord stylings of rockabilly progenitors like Eddie Cochran (see “Summertime Blues”)—ample justice by re-fabricating the tune’s taut rhythms and vocal harmonies. Hager himself indulges in not one but two guitar solos, the first bristling and hot and the second clicking and squeaky-clean.
Hager injects she-devil opus “Talk That Walk” with another crackling guitar lead and percussive, palm-muted rhythm. The tone and technique are fitting, given that his narrator’s got his eye on some smoldering lass.
“You got the wind in your hair and your clothes are so fair,” he says admiringly. “You’ll have ‘em wrapped around your finger and they won’t even care.”
The guitarist takes a different approach for “Nothing to Lose,” nudging the we-can-work-it-out broken relationship ballad along gingerly with arpeggios and clever mid-verse riffing. His densely-layered background vocals wane near the end of the four-plus-minute track, at which point drummer Alex Ambrose opens the throttle, sending the tempo into double-time.
Ambrose propels the disc’s other femme fatale anthem, “Little Evil,” with nimble foot and stick work while Hager channels his inner Marc Bolan for a modish guitar rock sound not unlike that in T. Rex’s “Get It On (Bang a Gong).”
Chip Ficyk contributed competent bass to the Hager-produced disc (he’s since been replaced by The Velvematics’ Andy Cane), gluing the guitar and drums with strident lines and low-end swagger.
The Chromes release is now available on iTunes, CD Baby, and other online outlets for a measly $5.99. You’ll have an opportunity to check out the band at The Spitfire (W. 117th and Franklin) on September 1st during Love Muffin Palooza.