The Basics

Nineteen/82 Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


It's a rare thing when a band's name sums them up perfectly. In the case of Mishawaka, Indiana's The Basics, it's damn near perfect. The trio of Doug Cowen, Ben Hajaj, and Charley Neises plays unadulterated, uncomplicated pop-rock, hearkening back to artists like Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, or The Smithereens. Basics indeed.

The difficulty with this is that so few bands who play this style do it well; it's really hard to rise above the morass of three-chord mediocrity. The Basics, on the other hand, do an excellent job of being more than three chords and a cloud of dust; their style may be basic, but don't sell their skill short. On their first CD, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Bitter/Sweet, The Basics are already showing a studied effortlessness that a lot of bands take years to reach, or never reach at all.

Bitter/Sweet is, to steal a phrase, only rock and roll, but I like it. The musicianship of the three members is competent without being unbalanced; they trade time in the musical forefront, blending perfectly to form an almost flawless wall of sound. While I hate falling back on comparisons, the Smithereens example is appropriate; certain parts of Bitter/Sweet, especially "In A Crowded Room" and "What If And What Is," remind me of the first time I heard "Behind The Wall Of Sleep." These guys make plain ol' rock and roll sound polished and smooth without sacrificing the essential simplicity of the songs.

Other exceptional tracks include the driving, powerful "Does The Bottle Burn?"; the acoustic-laced "So Lame" with its hints of the Troggs and the Who; the driving tom-tom and distorted background vocals on "Every Day Rain"; and the cheery roots swing of "Little Fool." My favorite track, however, has to be the haunting "City Of The Dead/Long Way To Hell," which takes every "Last Kiss" cliché in rock history and actually makes them scary. Tres cool.

The Basics have recently signed with a major label, and I think they've got a great future ahead of them. Bitter/Sweet is one of the most solid debut albums I've ever seen, and these Hoosiers are worth watching -- and purchasing for yourself.

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Rating: A

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