Blue Ash Ink does feature some of the trappings of more-modern music – there are a few nods to the Alice in Chains sound, complete with Layne Staley whine – but it’s largely about riffy hard-rock songcraft, Black Sabbath with a grungy sensibility and without the science fiction. It’s a nobly simple, sturdy album, and if it’s a bit too generic and polished, that’s the price of admission.
Singer Erick Holloway drives the band with his pleading vocals, and at times he channels Mike Patton circa The Real Thing, before the Faith No More frontman decided he was a messenger of Hell. (Listen to Holloway on “Broken” and try to deny it.) Guitarist Chris Avey has all the chops, as adept with a funky noodle as he is with his power chords and solos.
“Wander,” the record’s best song, could carry the subtitle “It Came from the ’70s,” but that would be more self-conscious than the music allows. The rest comes from the ’90s, but it has a timeless crunch.
There are some low points. “Plaid” is a silly, fist-pumping anthem, but it at least seems to know it. The sole detour into balladry, “Burn This,” is too bland for its own good but picks up with a nice chorus. And “Superman,” the closing track, is strangely full of itself, cock rock from a band that doesn’t really have it in them. (All the evidence you need: The lyric sheet suggests an expletive, but on record the line is, “I want to do Lois Lane.”)
A few missteps are always allowed, though, and it’s nice to report that for the most part, Blue Ash Ink is Big Dumb Rock without the middle word.
Speaking of Big Dumb Rock, it strikes me that music is becoming a lot like the Internet – everybody thinks the world wants what they have to offer, all evidence to the contrary. With a CD burner and some sound equipment, even I could move a few units, and I’ve successfully played a guitar chord exactly once. (Thankfully, it’s captured on tape for future distribution.) And so then we have Cheese Pizza, Big Dumb Rock personified and proud of it. These boys from LaSalle, Illinois, recorded a couple of shows (in their hometown and at the Pig Pen in Clinton) and released it as Tavern Tour Live. They celebrate Friday at RIBCO.
Here we have, preserved for all time, a set list that includes a snippet of “Iron Man” leading beautifully into “Mickey” – yes, that “Mickey” – and “I Touch Myself” sharing CD space with “Tomorrow” – yes, that “Tomorrow.” If you don’t know quite what to think yet, a sampling of the rest should do the trick: “Kung Fu Fighting,” “I Think I Love You,” “Play that Funky Music,” “Daydream Believer.”
Give Cheese Pizza this: The band plays well (especially drummer Gil Fishman), with energy, and remarkably without a hint of shame or derision. These guys make “Venus” sound like it was meant to be a barroom rave-up, and singer Buk Sundeck has the perfect snottily earnest delivery. A lot of people probably love ’em. And plied with enough beer, even I might have some fun at a show.
But this is not civilization’s proudest moment. What should have been a guilty one-night pleasure has become eternal. God help us.
If you must support Cheese Pizza, you’ll get your chance at the band’s record-release party at RIBCO on Friday, October 13, at 10:30 p.m.
Blue Ash Ink performs in the area constantly. The band will be playing at the Paddlewheel Sports Bar & Grill on October 13 and The Arena on October 14.