Review Summary: Modern classic rock
P.J. Soles, for those unaware, is an actress who has played in well-known movies such as Halloween
and Rock ‘n’ Roll High School
. Ironically enough, however, she herself is no where near as famous as the movies she played in. She’s a fallen star that never got the big break she deserved, even though she had done everything one could do to reach success within the mainstream.
is a rock duo from the midwest, most known for their major hit song “Bound for the Floor”. They have everything one could ask for in a rock band: Catchy music, snarky lyricism, memorable albums, but for whatever reason, they just never lived up to the success of “Bound for the Floor”, and thus they quickly faded to obscurity within the mainstream.
If you haven't guessed by now, Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles
revolves around the theme of failure. It’s an incredibly bitter record, delivering pure scorn and negativity every second, but it holds enough wit, charm, and passion to keep it from being too nasty to listen too. This disc tells the story of a once-famous millionaire, describing the different things he deals with throughout his life, such as divorce, the many prostitutes he sleeps with, alcoholism, and his distaste for songs about California.
Each track on this record is unique, having their own distinctive voice to be heard. Musically, the album is practically divided. The first half contains perhaps the catchiest songs on the album, while the tracks on the second half is much darker in tone. From the very beginning, the album throws hook after hook at you. “Everyone Alive” includes a poppy riff that is equally crunchy as it is catchy, and the chorus has a fun shout-response ability to it that only makes you wonder how epic it must be to perform it live and watch everyone sing along. “P.J. Soles” is a jazzy number that includes perhaps the band's most heartfelt lyrics. “I guess it’s like they said/ That it was all just built up in my head/ But you’re still so real to me”
frontman Scott Lucas croons, adding extra conviction to every word sung. This song showcases this band’s solid craftsmanship, Brian St. Clair’s drum work is as great as ever, and, as mentioned earlier, Scott’s performance is not too shabby either.
The instrumentation in general is very solid throughout this record. Scott and Brian are two forces that work perfectly together. Scott’s guitar work, while not very mind blowing, is still catchy and memorable enough to get stuck into your head for days, and Brian is a down right animal when it comes to the drums. He can keep up a steady, structured pace on tracks like “P.J. Soles”, but when it comes to songs like “How’s the Weather Up There?” and “Money On the Dresser”, he pounds against them with all his might. The album’s centerpiece, “Buffalo Trace”, perhaps summarizes their musical companionship the best.
“Buffalo Trace” is essentially a ten minute jam session, which shows off the band’s classic rock influences very well. The amount of fuzz to be found in the guitar tone is unbelievable, and the horns layer the track with a boom. Guitar squeals ice the track as everything collides into each other, forming a massive, overwhelming explosion of sound not for the faint of heart. You know what’s the best part? Everything I’ve mentioned about this song so far is only the intro! Everything fades out, leaving behind Brain’s simplistic, intimidating drumming, which is topped by Scott’s warbled vocals. The whole song is essentially a build up; after a false ending, the band kicks back into the track with an intense, ferocious ending that leaves you stunned in absolute amazement, making it the perfect bridge for the latter half of the album.
The latter half begins light and poppy, only to quickly turn bleak and heavy. “Heaven On the Way Down” is a catchy, almost uplifting song that makes for a very good jam, and “Hey, Rita” is a cool-headed folk rock tune that makes for a good pause from all of the distorted guitars. Speaking of, “Mellowed”, the song that follows, is a dark, almost upsetting track that deals with alcoholism. The guitars are absolutely drenched in reverb, and Scott’s vocals feel almost buried underneath the instrumentation, giving off a distant feeling to the song. The chorus, however, acts like the light at the end of the tunnel, with the soaring guitars giving a glimpse of hope to the song.
What I enjoy the most about this record is it’s lasting value. Everytime I put this on for a spin, it still sounds just a fresh as it did when I first heard it. It’s just a deeply satisfying album to listen to, and it would be a crime to say it is not rewarding one bit. As mentioned above, the album gets very dark near the end, but the track “Halcyon Days (Where Were You Then?)” is just an absolutely happy conclusion to an otherwise bitter recording. Throughout the entire album, we learn that the main character is living in the past, always focusing on the life he once had and not paying any attention to his current life. “Halcyon Days (Where Were You Then?)” is about moving on, a lesson that is very important to take from this album. This track is surprisingly optimistic in tone, the guitars soar to the skies and the vocals are sung with forgiveness, making for a very happy ending.
Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles?
is hands down the duo’s best recording. It’s their most cohesive, with not a single flaw to be found within. Hell, it’s something that I would consider as the modern day equivalent to a classic rock record. It absolutely overflows with passion, great ideas, and the band’s trademark snark, making for the perfect listen. It’s an album that only improves the more you listen to it, and for that reason, it deserves 10 fu