HAPPINESS IS A LIT FUSE: The Powder Kegs’ new 5-song EP “Empty Side” (2010) is decidedly pop-based, but not in the way you might think. It overflows with Beatlesesque melodies, and soft phrasings. Lyrically, on a track like “Shake Me Down”, it’s easy to see John Lennon singing: “Your world is mapped out on a grid / Where avenues grow long and sidewalks never end / And every place you try to go / You find out that you’ve been there many time before.”
The band makes use of warm horns, hand-claps, piano, and soft maracas. But most interestingly, the lead vocalist seems to be able to change styles for whatever suits the song. On “The Right Time” he inflects like he’s singing a Morrissey track, “When the right love / Is the right time / Every time / I saw you smiling at the way you lost your mind / On the roof one time.” On “Don’t Cry, Little Baby Bird” he sounds more like Wayne Coyne before his voice got shot to hell. Perhaps they’re different singers. The band does list two.
Overall, “Empty Side” is really quite graceful, with “Window On Your Wall” the only track that seems to fall a bit flat. But it’s their elegant pop-rock love song, “La Mariposa” (The Butterfly), that really shows off the band’s skill for unique invention and its beautiful command of melody — mixing Spanish and English lyricism with charm: “Mariposa salva me / I wasn’t even lookin’ / And you come my way.” It’s the jazz-infused cacophonous ending, with well-timed xylophone and soaring brass that really launches the song into the stratosphere. The Powder Kegs feature Dan Maroti on vocals, guitar, and keyboard, Ryan Dieringer on vocals and bass, and Sam McDougle on drums. — Words and art by David D. Robbins Jr.