We live in a gimmicky world. A world where sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not. Our world only wants us to pay attention fifteen seconds at a time lest we see behind the curtain and realize all of the noise being thrown at us is just…noise.
We also live in a world that has given us ninety years of some of the best music mankind has ever produced, giving today’s artists an awesomely deep well to draw inspiration from. Some choose to draw from it on the QT while others embrace their love of where they come from (musically and otherwise) and happily invite us along for the trip.
The best part about the world we live in is when you stumble across a record by a band that has no need for gimmicks, even if the whole basis of their existence might trick you into thinking otherwise. The Weeklings are one of those bands – real in their musicianship and real in their devotion to what has brought them to where they are. Artists are at their best when that devotion is on full display: That’s when the emotion of what they do jumps out of the speakers or off the stage and grabs us around the collar and shakes and shimmies us until we’re spent. That my friends is what rock & roll was always about.
The second studio album from The Weeklings, Studio 2, is a glorious sounding monaural ode to The Beatles circa 1965 while being fresh and distinct and well beyond just a gimmicky Beatles tribute. With basic tracks recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London over the summer of 2016, the record sounds great and modern while maintaining the sonic vibe of Help! or Rubber Soul. But it’s a major disservice to simply write them off as a Beatles tribute band. The Weeklings are a power-pop outfit with no need to hold fast to the Beatles’ apron strings. They’re moving forward while embracing the past instead of just being mired in it.
With basic instrumentation and limited overdubs, what you’re listening to is a rock & roll band that plays from the heart. It just so happens that the heart of the band is beating quite happily in Piccadilly Circus circa 1966. The thing is, especially on tracks like Little Elvis, there’s a musicianship and finessed abandon that could only have been written and recorded by artists who were influenced by the 60s while looking through the lenses of careers that have strayed far outside the confines of what they heard coming through their transistor radios when they were kids.
The first eight songs on the record were written by Glen Burtnik and Bob Burger and each is a well-crafted pop-rock song with hooks and arrangements that evoke a time without pandering. As you listen keep in mind that this music is a labor of love crafted as part homage and part free expression. You don’t make records like this in the late 20-teens if you’re looking to cash in, you make records like this because this is the music you’re compelled to make. Listen to it from that point-of-view and you’ll be drawn right in and your 21st Century cynical self will suddenly find out that cool has nothing to do with what other people think cool is.
The last four tunes continue the combining of new tunes written by Burtnik and Burger thrown in with lesser known Lennon/McCartney compositions the Weeklings started on their first record. Eventually they’ll run out of unknown Beatles tunes to record and that’s not a bad thing: For the most part the eight originals hit harder and pop louder than the four Beatles tracks do. That’s not to say there’s less joy in hearing new takes on Beatles tunes even the hardest core fans might not be familiar with, but the band didn’t need them to make a stand-out record.
If you dig super-tight harmonies that were sung and not processed, with just the right amount of musical flourish to accompany it all, you’ll do well to give this record a listen.
Morning, Noon & Night. The most Beatle-esque of the originals on the set, if you like tight harmony and jangly guitars, whether your music is from the 60s, 70s or 80s, this song has got your number.
Little Elvis. Here’s the thing: It sounds like it came from England back when our go-go boots were white and shiny, but there’s a Jersey vibe to this song (even though only one member is from Asbury Park the Weeklings are an Asbury Park band in spirit) that’s as strong as decent bagels and ornery teenagers pumping your gas. And the sound of those drums!
Don’t Know, Don’t Care. The Romantics meet the Fab Four and they play Chuck Berry tunes but add extra chords. And those harmonies!
Love Can. The production and mix is lush and warm and the simple piano lines lend just the right softness. You can hear this song in your mind in any of the previous decades of your life, including this one – the sign of a really good tune.
You’re the One. A little bit country, a little bit Liverpool, a little bit Byrds, a little bit Souther, Hillman, Furay but altogether unmistakable as a Weeklings tune.
Next Big Thing. Side One (if you’re a vinyl listening person) ends with a bit more country and some really fine extended guitar work. Could have used maybe a little more Ringo on the cymbals and snare for some extra punch, but that’s just being picky.
Stop Your Running Around. We kind of forget that it was George Harrison who brought the funk when the Beatles dived into that kind of stuff, and I can hear the Quiet Beatles’ influence all over this one. Not surprisingly my personal favorite on the set.
Melody. I take that previous statement back (a little). If I was an A&R guy this is this tune I’d push. Maybe this song isn’t meant for these times, but that’s our gain because we get to listen to something new that sounds like it’s been with us all along.
You Must Write. A great example of what a really good band and arranger can do with material that’s maybe not super strong. But that first breakdown! I actually considered screaming for more.
Because I Know You Love Me. A fun little country novelty tune that sounds like it was a gas to play. I really didn’t want to like this one but in the end I did.
Some Days. One of the stronger tunes on the record, this is a Lennon/McCartney song that could have stood out equally circa Meet the Beatles or thereabouts. I can hear the girls screaming as I write this…
Love of the Loved. Forget the Beatles. Forget Abbey Road studio. Take a minute and twelve seconds and listen to the vocals. Forget the whole throwback thing and realize The Weeklings are first and foremost a band what’s got the goods.
Photo credit: MitzenPhotography.com