TBT: Music Band’s ‘Wake Up Laughing’ LP

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music band wake up laughing

2016 was an incredible year for music. Last December it was really difficult to sift through all of the great releases to compose concise end-of-year lists. That’s why this week’s Throwback Thursday is spotlighting an album from the very recent past. Wake Up Laughing by Music Band came out in April of 2016 but flew under the radar compared to other Infinity Cat Recordings releases from last year. It’s reminiscent of acts like Tom Petty and Green Day with high enthusiasm, but totally unique for this time period. I discovered this album via a playlist that included the song “Day Stealer,” the album’s opener and a fitting introduction to what is essentially 38 full minutes of undeniably energetic rock n’ roll.

Highlights from this record include the aforementioned “Day Stealer,” the quick and riff-packed “Green Lights,” the classically contemplative “Keep Living,” and hooky “Fortune Guns.” The first three tracks are nonstop high-energy, and all in a row to give off the energy of a live, excited crowd. The pace slows down a bit with “Money,” but is no less electrifying. Deliberate riffs provide seamless transitions between songs and somehow sustain multiple tempo changes throughout the work as a whole. “Raag, Pt. 1,”  “Raag, Pt. 2”, “Scarab Music, Pt. 1”, and “Scarab Music, Pt. 2” are explicitly associated in title, but the entire album evolves in a trackable and interwoven way that connects every minute of fast-paced guitar and steady drumming to the next.

While mixed to highlight the bright instrumental energy, the album’s lyrics add a final touch that cements this album in my list of 2016 favorites. “I just woke up hummin’ / cause somethin’ good is comin’ to me” Music Band speculates on “Fortune Guns.” “Green Lights” comes across as pleading in an album that is overall more internally thoughtful: “There’s a right way to do it / we could hit green lights the whole way home.” The song “Money” could be a devotional burn towards capitalism with the line, “I got some money but I am afraid / cause money makes you lazy.” The song continues, “how come you give and then you take away? One day I’m gonna walk away.” Lines like “I’m a big strong man so the pain don’t hurt” in “Keep Living” feel like an ironic twist on rock music’s history of maintaining the tough-guy masculinity. The long instrumentals common on the record feel complete without lyrics, but when they’re present, they make their point just as vividly as the guitar, bass, and drums.

Harry Kagan (guitar), Lee Putney (drums) and Duncan Shea (bass) hail from Nashville, which has audibly influenced their sound. The description from their label as “honest-to-goodness rock and roll music” is straightforward, but not accurate for many rock bands these days. However, Music Band has written a fully-formed record of “honest-to-goodness” rock music that is somehow classic and unique at the same time. With a name like Music Band, these guys could easily blend into the fabric of the Nashville scene, but something about Wake Up Laughing feels significant beyond its placement in time.

— Lucy Danger