Now Hear This

Reviews of recent CDs by Badfellows, Order of Thieves, and Two Days From Monday

“Personal Beehive” by Badfellows

"Personal Beehive" by Badfellows

I usually refrain from using buzzwords in music reviews, but as a sucker for the slacker-pop sound from my infant era, sometimes the term “90s revival” is all it takes.

On the surface, the sound of Manchester-based band Badfellows draws memories of Pavement’s three S’s (sarcasm, self-deprecation, and surrealism), inflated with the heart and blood of late-’90s, emo-inspired, indie rock. But it’s the sincerity of the songs — not just in the lyrics, but in the sound — that gives Badfellows its modernity. The music is cool and alternative, but it’s still got plenty of heart.

With songs like “Ugly Sons with Perfect Smiles” and “Awful Anxious,” listeners get a sense of what they’re getting into. Vocalist Evan Benoit plays the self-deprecation beautifully, paying tribute to the lackadaisical power pop of the ’90s by confessing his insecurities while simultaneously shrugging them off.

The band’s true influence comes from Badfellows’ brother band Pleasure Gap. While the same members make up both bands, Badfellows takes Pleasure Gap’s abstract pop and turns it into something more accessible. The songs are built with weird chords, angular guitar riffs, and vocals that waver in and out of key, shooting up to a falsetto and crashing back down. But Badfellows’ music is garnished with enough pop to draw comparisons to the Breeders, who similarly took the bizarre elements of their sister band, the Pixies, and worked them into more relatable pop-rock tunes.

Badfellows is playing at the Shaskeen Pub in Manchester on Thursday, Nov. 10, at 9 p.m., with The Grebes, New English, and Wedding Camp. For more on the show, click here. To listen to “Personal Beehive,” click here.

“Order of Thieves” by Order of Thieves

Order of Thieves

Order of Thieves drummer Rick Habib said of this self-titled album, “We like to describe the sound as progressive, math, chimp/chicken rock. I’m not totally sure what that means, but somehow I think it might make some sense if one listens to the album.”

I still have no idea how to define the qualities of “chimp/chicken rock,” but judging by the CD, I can only assume that it’s a type of music with a sound so catchy and uniquely rhythmic that it inspires such dances as “The Monkey” and “The Chicken.”

The classic-rock genre has an unfortunate reputation. Combining the words “classic” and “rock evokes the perception of a style that has been preserved in amber from a previous era. But for anyone who feels that rock just isn’t the same as it was when Aerosmith, Yes, and other riff-heavy bands reigned supreme, pick up this album immediately.

With familiar local rockers Bob Lord on bass and Jon McCormack on guitar, the trio brings progressive rock back to the forefront, harkening to the smooth, mathy melodies and crunchy textures of Rush and Frank Zappa. While the band shares the tight cohesiveness that the core trio of Rush pioneered, Order of Thieves also exhibits the tongue-in-cheek humor of Zappa. The catchy song titles include the instrumental rocker “Recreational Viagra,” which opens the album, and “Drunkenmonkeyknifefight,” which, according to the band, was set to be released as a single around the time that a Fox News story involving the same subject stole the show.

Humor aside, the band carries the torch of good old-fashion hard rock. Foghat fans and REO Speedwagon freaks will rejoice at rocking tunes like “Tollbooth Goddess,” “Rhinestone Halo,” and “Town & Oates,” which appear in succession like a 1-2-3 punch to the gut. Simply put, the album just plain rocks.

For a sample from the album, click here. If any listener wants to debate “chimp/chicken rock,” tweet me at @agsorette. I would love to hear another take on this new genre.

“Two Days from Monday” by Two Days from Monday

Two Days from Monday

Two Days from Monday combines the yearning sentimentality of jangle pop with enough swagger for an arena. From the trenches of the Seacoast’s open-mic scene, the band’s sound harnesses the intimacy of a coffeehouse setting, but with tunes meant for the main stage.

Guitarist Chris Torrey and bassist Meg Oolders intertwine vocal melodies with the smoothness of seasoned veterans. Lyrically, the band is poignant. The opening track, “Secondhand Smile,” confesses to feelings of alienation and insecurity about one’s personal presentation to the outside world, while “The Songwriter” describes Torrey’s desperate desire for his music to touch others, as the music of his idols touches him.

The album comes to a perfect climax with “Danceaway.” Oolders sings sensitively about self-reflection and assessment in this beautiful ballad stitched together with soft melodies. “Awaken to the rise of dawn / Don’t turn around, for last night’s gone,” she sings.

The idea that everything will be all right in the end is a much-needed reminder in the turbulent social atmosphere of 2016. In these times, we need more introspection and self-assurance, and Two Days From Monday delivers.

To listen to the album, click here.