Words by Ricky
Check out that band photo—that’s a kickass gang of dudes who just returned from a B.O.C. concert, circa ’76 (Agents of Fortune tour?*). OK, not true. The photo was probably snapped a few weeks ago, as they form a Pittsburgh band that shares a name with an innocently tame amusement park ride. No, they’re not Garfield’s Nightmare (that would make for a sweet noise band name, though). It’s Carousel. A bad-ass EP now exists that documents their 70’s hard rock-influenced riffage, and they release it tonight, yes TONIGHT. Cancel plans with your date, get a last-minute tattoo, and hit up Belvedere’s.
There’s the easy-listening classic rock bullshit (the stuff a DJ spins at your lame cousin’s wedding) that clouds Clear Channel airwaves, but that’s not what interests Carousel. Think Thin Lizzy, Steppenwolf, or Bow Wow (no, not the hip-hop dude–look’em up–one of the best Japanese rock bands ever). Like these bands, when Carousel enters the stage, they jostle our senses with mean guitar licks and an epic rhythm section. All they’re missing is some fake blood and a ridiculous drum riser. And they rock…..haaaard. Earlier this year at a Thunderbird Cafe gig, the cops were called due to all of the (“too loud”) rockin’. That’s a true story—I heard the cops entered the dark performance space with flashlights, gazed at overpowering (guitarist/singer) Dave Wheeler in a hypnotized shredding daze, and scurried out the door in horror.
“Tears of Stone,” the first track (and the entire Side A) of the record, starts as a sinister blues-y jam. “I’m gonna build myself a castle / I’m gonna crrrr-i-yi-yi tears of stone,” Wheeler belts over a laid-back groove. Nothing especially groundbreaking here–you’ve heard the same groove thousands of times (millions if you’re a Guitar Center employee forced to endure hours of assclowns wailing on Ibanez guitars)—but that’s beyond the point. Carousel doesn’t re-write the rules or experiment by pushing standard genre frameworks. Instead they travel back to a time where a cranked Les Paul electric guitar or a stomach-rumbling drum solo could jolt arenas of black leather/ torn t-shirt-clad men to tears (of stone?)…a time where two guitars soloing harmonies conveyed the sadness or anger or joy that words couldn’t express in day-to-day life. The power of rock n’ roll maybe?
At the 5½ minute mark, you can crack open some beers, because the adrenaline kicks in. You know that scene when Selina Kyle tells Bruce Wayne “there’s a storm coming” in that new Batman movie? Pretty sure she was talking about this section of the song. Fans will recognize this live staple, thanks to the triumphant guitar harmonies that refuse to leave one’s head hours after the show. The solos are fantastic–and you don’t understand the caliber of that compliment….so let me explain. I’m not a classic rock snob, so I often berate the idea of guitar solos. Sure you’ll always have the masters like Crazy Horse or Zepplin or BOW WOW, but for every solo that lifts a song to the next level, another 50 lazy attempts of noodling ignore creativity and only exist to fill song space. In the end, I can still karaoke Robert Fripp’s entire guitar part in “Baby’s on Fire,” so I should probably shut up (since there’s nothing to complain about on this EP) and get back to the review.
Despite all the raging guitars on “Tears of Stone,” the spotlight shines on bassist Jim Wilson. The bass chugs along as the driving force, not only in this song, but throughout most of the band’s material (I just wish the instrument was more pronounced on the second half of the record). The b-sides of the EP don’t reach the peaks of exhilaration of “Tears,” but I dig the solid rocker “Missed Connection” a lot. Dave Wheeler’s Paul Stanley-fied yelps have never sounded better, and Jake Leger’s drumming in the second half of the song kicks ass.
It’s easy to define Carousel as a 70’s dude rock band, but ultimately, this is rock n’ roll in its most primative form. Dave Wheeler, Pittsburgh’s rock n’ roll Santa Claus, has given us a gift that I immediately wanted a year and a half ago after catching the band’s first live show at Gooski’s. The EP is a welcome X-Mas present to the local scene, so even if you can’t attend tonight’s show (you’ll also miss Secret Tombs and Sistered), you can at least purchase a record to make up for it. If you’re lookin’ for some fun, Belevedere’s is the place to be. Bring the whole family—your grandma can even scream at the guys to get a haircut.
*The one or two slight grins suggest a sweet “Debbie Denise” encore.
Carousel on the web: Facebook