What does ice cream have to do with bluesy indie rock? I’m not really sure but my best guess is they’re both tasty.
Before I even dive into the musical content of Horace Greene‘s debut album, I feel the need to comment on their branding – it IS the first thing a potential listener will see. The album cover is simple yet intriguing; fonts are used sparingly; the colors have been applied to other materials on their social media (each main color overlaying a different member of the three-piece).
While branding may seem like a divergent point, it says a lot about a band’s approach to their craft. What appearance are they conveying externally – is this a weekend hobby or is it a finely-tuned business they desire to take full-time? While I can’t speak to the band’s aspirations, they have at least created the impression that their endeavors go beyond playing a handful of shows each month.
Moving onto the music, “Early American Ice Cream” stands at a lengthy twelve tracks of groovy, bluesy rock n’ roll. “Early American” seems appropriate – vocalist/guitarist Tony Oakley’s voice is reminiscent of an early decade and his guitar stylings are equally vintage, borrowing from ’60s influences.
Unlike many albums these days, “Early American Ice Cream” is not front-loaded. My personal favorites are spread out fairly evenly (No Touch, High Tonight, Burgundy Cars, Little Pistol). However, I must disclose that this type of music is not something I listen to regularly. Thus, apart from these few tracks, the album tends to drag.
On major problem seems to be the lack of dynamics. Oakley’s voice is strong, but much of his singing sits in a similar register. Some of this is likely intentional based on the style, but it does start to lose flavor quickly (no pun intended). There are few parts which feel noticeably more impassioned on the vocal end.
Lyrics, though not too particular interesting, do suit the genre and “slow-dance” mood of the slower songs.
Instrumentation is powerfully-executed. I first must commend bassist Sam Swetlik for providing a strong, underlying groove which manages to be present but not overbearing. The guitarwork is a bit hit-and-miss. Some lines frankly aren’t very interested and some songs end up pretty repetitive. I think the band would benefit from adding in one more guitarist to handle lead parts. Lastly, the drumming is delicate and showcasing plenty of cymbal-work. It’s definitely meant to be complementary to the rest of the instrumentation but does at times feel low in the mix.
Overall, production is crisp and clean. Other than my previous remark on the drums, the mix feels appropriate. I again appreciate how the bass was brought out – it makes sense given just how much is going on in the low end.
Overall, I’m not sure I’d take two scoops of “Early American Ice Cream” but it’s certainly worth a taste. I’m not going to deny much of opinion is due to personal preference. However, the fact I can pinpoint a few highlight tracks on the album does make it evident that there is some disparity between levels of songwriting. If there was an EP with these songs alone, it would be pretty strong. Instead, they’re dispersed amid twelve tracks. You might claim I’m not discerning, but my attention span starts to wane quickly, tracks feel skippable, and everything starts to blur.
I should add this: I have seen Horace Greene play live and it was NOT a boring show. There is plenty of extra energy live and they have a strong stage presence. Unfortunately, this isn’t conveyed on the album.
I do want to convey my respect for the band. What they accomplish with three members is pretty powerful. If they can incorporate a wider degree of dynamics on the next album, it should resolve many of the critiques I have with “Early American Ice Cream”.