Rocking, Rolling, and Rollicking with The 1984 Draft
Today's music world is saturated by pop princesses, SoundCloud rappers, and kids mixing tracks in their dorm room. That's all well and good -- you know we're suckers for a good hook and moody reflection -- but it's a whole lot rarer to find a rock group crushing it amidst the rest. We hit the jackpot with The 1984 Draft, an Ohio-based rock 'n roll band, emphasis on the "rock." With Joe Anderl on vocals and guitar, Justin Satinover on drums, Eli Alban on guitar, and Chip Heck on bass, The 1984 Draft pools their talents to craft punk-tinged rock tracks heavy on multi-instrumental prowess.
A few weeks ago, the guys dropped Makes Good Choices, their latest full-length release featuring 10 tracks dripping in high-powered rock and roll. We obviously needed to learn everything we possibly could about the killer record, so lead vocalist Joe kindly spoke to the band's favorite musical mermaid (hint: it's me) about the cover art, the band's evolution, and making good choices (like marrying his wife and becoming a father).
Makes Good Choices opens with Joe's own son delivering a passionate ode to his favorite television character which sets the scene for "Jan Kowalski," The 1984 Draft's first track, bursting from the get-go with rapid-fire layers of multi-instrumentation. The song is fleeting, just a two minute tease of what we can expect from the rest of the record including distinct vocals, the rage of guitar riffs, unrelenting percussion, and more. Next comes "Lately," one of the standout tracks on the record. It's sort of the cool dad of 2000s alt-rock bangers: we get that thick rock arrangement, twangy voice confessing a quick, catchy hook, and the fuzz of distortion, but there's a maturity to it. There's substance to it ("The quiet with my wife is all I need"), a humbling treatment in both the lyrics and the instrumentation, which is rich with talent spanning decades. Next comes "Miss Ohio," a track so punchy and slamming that you can practically hear it being lobbed at the band on stage at their reunion show years down the line, a rabid fan begging to hear the frenzied rock anthem that finds Joe's voice at its strongest, most impassioned howl and the percussion at its most unwavering.
On "Morrissey Of Mandys," we're treated to a more bittersweet take on The 1984 Draft's expert rock arrangements. The bass is a deep warble, the vocals are a damn close Craig Finn imposter, and when the percussion kicks in, it kicks in hard, but it goes through different tempos as the track moves forlornly as a more contemplative garage-rock piece. What isn't said here is louder than what is. Next is "Honest," easily the gem of this whole album. It follows its predecessor's suit, rumbling with the low grit of bass as Joe opens with "The lines on my face just prove it's a young man's game," resignedly delivering a brutal truth before the arrangement slowly swells. Later, when the breakdown hits, layers upon layers of wild, heavy rock rhythms join forces to build a gut-punch instrumental solo interrupted only by the hook -- "I'm just being honest" -- hurled into the song's ether.
The halfway point of Makes Good Choices finds "Wedding," another track destined for high-volume replays with searing guitar and the endless slap of slamming percussion. "Lutheran Heat" is next, a quirky punk-rock romp so rapid-fire and fuzzy with power that the vocals are clouded by the haze of that thick instrumentation. On "Red Dress" (I know we can't keep calling everything a standout but... this is one of them), the guys deliver a power ballad dripping in bittersweet melodies (think the kind of buzzy, high-power, reflective alt-rock of Boston band Transit who are no longer active). The songwriting here is at its best -- clipped lines that say little on the surface ("I thought I'd never see / The better side of me" and "With your red dress on / I knew I was done") but weave a poignant narrative on falling -- no, plummeting -- in love.
"Megaphone" brews as a bass-fueled slow-burn before gravelly vocals come in, followed soon after by percussive eruption and the roar of warring guitar. There's not a whole lot to this one -- the band's just "causing problems with a megaphone" -- but it's another example of their musical prowess. Makes Good Choices ends with "Lisbon Falls," the opening of which surprises and delights with a droning crescendo of organ. The vocals here are powerful, weighed down with an ache that was, for the most part, successfully concealed throughout the rest of the album. Classic rock instrumentation kicks in quick, guns blazing. It's a melodic piece but it's packed with layers of thick alt-rock rhythms, each element and member joining forces to deliver an emotive banger showcasing the band's infinite talent as multi-instrumentalists.
Makes Good Choices moves in a fog, drowned by thick clouds of expertly crafted rock arrangements. There is so much genius here: from the in-your-face wisdom of fleeting lyrics to the force of percussion that barrels into every song. Together, the guys of The 1984 Draft have forged ahead in the world of classic rock, bursting onto the scene as a band deserving of a future discography that will afford them major success, but they're also content to drift back into the 90s and early 2000s alt-rock niche that so many other great groups (like Radiohead and The Hold Steady) stemmed from. Either way, The 1984 Draft prove with this record that they are teeming with skill and vision that deserves to be realized.
If Makes Good Choices is any indication of what's to come, we recommend saving a spot in your memories for The 1984 Draft who are sure to be one of the most rollicking rock bands of our time.