The Famous

Social Hero

Machine Dream Records, 2009

http://www.socialhero.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/19/2010

I’m always intrigued when members of an established group take on side projects or solo albums.  What drove them to it?  A need for more control, a desire for change, simple boredom?  After all, it must be pretty frustrating to be a creative artist working in a field where the folks with the money (labels and consumers alike) mostly demand a consistent product that satisfies pre-existing expectations.

These thoughts come to mind when listening to New York quintet Social Hero, simply because these guys don’t seem to have gotten the memo, genre-pigeonholing-wise.  It’s obvious enough that they’re classic rock savants, but beyond that broad description they are all over the map stylistically, evidencing equal affection for riff-heavy rock, grinding heavy metal, and complex, lilting prog. 

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By the time you get through the first three tracks, SH has hit you with anthemic hard rock (opener “Evening Gown”), a cut that mixes a punk edge with power-pop harmonies and progressive dynamics (“Better Days”), and a riff-and-harmony-heavy workout that reminds a bit of Mott The Hoople in the way it manages to be both glammy and distinctly progressive in its shifts of tempo and tone (“Gone”).

“On My Own” continues in the latter vein, adding a bit of Jet-ish grit and flash to the thundering arrangement.  “Recognized” goes heavier yet, turning the proceedings in a distinctly metal direction before the guys regroup for “Mosquito Attack,” a harmonies-and-acoustics mid-tempo number with a folk-rock feel – well, until the song busts out into a bruising hard rock chorus, before falling back again.  If you’ve ever wondered what a collaboration between America and Black Sabbath might sound like… well, you have a richer imagination than I do.

The closing trio do nothing to resolve the stylistic ADD Social Hero exhibits on The Famous, but there are undeniably entertaining moments to be found in the guitar heroics of “Runaway,” the Guns N’ Roses opening and hyperactive tempo of “Radioactive Man,” and the dreamy, Queen-meets-Yes dynamics of closer “Keep Telling Yourself.”

The band’s bio is as intriguing as its range.  Brothers Griffin and Brandon Lotti hold down the lead guitar and bass slots, while lead vocalist/second guitarist David Lloyd only has to turn his head to catch up with Dad, because said parental unit is background vocalist Ian Lloyd, former lead voice of the ’70s group Stories.  The drum kit was manned for this disc by Ray Odabashian, since replaced by Derek Schildkraut.

This family affair forms a powerhouse unit with unlimited potential – the question is, will they find a musical focus, or continue to genre-hop like the connoisseurs they clearly are?  There are good arguments to be made on either side of that dilemma; how the band resolves it may well determine their fate.  For now, they’ve made an album that, for all the questions it leaves unanswered, is undeniably entertaining.

Rating: B

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