Artist: Ed Hale and the Transcendence
Album: The Great Mistake
As any fan will tell you, change is the only certainty when it comes to the sound of musical group Ed Hale and the Transcendence. On The Great Mistake, their newest and sixth album, and the follow-up to 2011′s dark and sonically dense masterwork All Your Heroes Become Villains, Hale and long-time bandmates ditch the heavy themes in favor of spry, catchy garage-pop gems; short bursts of tornado-like intensity with relentless energy and reckless abandon pouring from each track. If All Your Heroes was tailor-made for the LSD and headphone set, The Great Mistake is like crack for driving fast with the top down.
For this recording, rather than coming in with complex arrangements and grand themes, lead vocalist Hale showed up with his usual arsenal of open-tuned guitars and hook-heavy song sketches that he had been collecting for years in a ratty notebook. From there, the band went about shaping the songs into concise quick fits of raw, rocking barn-burners. Band members Bill Sommer (drums), Fernando Perdomo (lead guitar, multi-instrumentalist) and bassist Roger Houdaille (also in the indie-rock group Ex Norwegian) all contributed songs to the album’s controlled chaos.
The album’s easy indie-meets-glam-rock appeal helped it become an instant favorite on College Radio stations across the U.S. debuting at #16 on the CMJ Most Added Chart in its first week and spending several weeks in the Top 100. On each song Hale’s vocals are front and center. Mostly absent are those moments of whispered reflection featured on Hale’s last solo album Ballad On Third Avenue, replaced by soaring, snarling vocal lines instead. Hale’s lyrics on The Great Mistake characterized by a nearly manic lust for life and a fuck-all attitude only hinted at on any of the band’s prior albums (“I Wanna Know Ya” from 2005′s Nothing is Cohesive. “I’m always up/I’m never down”, he sings on the opener “ManChildWoman”, and those words are an apt description of the whole album in general. There’s not a single track that sniffs the four-minute mark, and even ones with slower more mellow sections don’t stay that way for long.
One of the most notable and defining features of the album are the manic sonic thunderballs courtesy of firebrand guitarist Fernando Perdomo, who peppers The Great Mistake with unforgettably catchy and melodic riffs that nod to everyone from Jimmy Page to Jack White, Mick Ronson, Todd Rundgren, T. Rex and even Ravi Shankar.
On the verses of the infectious first single “Baby Bop”, Hale’s brash vocals take turns with a signature Perdomo lick, and then it’s all-systems-go on a raucous chorus that dares you to try to sit still or not sing along. “Monday” is a Thrills meets Matthew Sweet-esque rocker over an up-tempo beat, with drummer Bill Sommer doing his best Taylor Hawkins impression. “Hot Down” sounds like a lost Roxy Music hit or the soundtrack to a really weird birthday party, and the two sections of “I Remember You” manage to channel Queen, The Strokes and Lou Reed, respectively, in the same three minutes and still manage to sound like they belong together.
With the album having been recorded in just over three days, it is clear that the band felt a reckless excitement in the studio together. Turning their instruments up to 11 and letting loose with everything they had and then some, songs like “The Divine Miss M” and “Nobody’s Listening to You” are the closest to a full-on punk assault the band has ever recorded, reminiscent of The Stooges or The Replacements. Though they still deliver a few numbers with their characteristic Brit-pop melodicism that stay in the head for days, most notably the tongue-in-cheek “Mongo Kitty” and the majestic “Carol’s Catastrophe”.
From start to finish The Great Mistake delivers fun, accessible over the top thrills in a rough and tumble collection of songs that is impossible to want to turn down, and, at least while listening, sound as though it could very well “transcend” anything else the band has released to date in terms of pure enjoyment, which says a lot for a band who is ten years and nine albums into an already impressive career. For all their ambitious pomp and circumstance through the years, this one might just be their shiniest diamond in the rough yet.