Chris McKay and the Critical Darlings – Satisfactionista
This is a little off the Americana-roots path, but its bright Squeeze-Beatles-Buckingham’s style music is engaging. Filled with 60s classic radio catchy melodies & singing without being silly & lame. All worth a look. What’s compelling is their ability to emulate styles & maintain the approach & not repeat themselves. Each tune is like the chocolates in a big, assorted box. A little crunch, some jelly, a bit of taffy, a cherry & nougat. You don’t know what you’re going to get.
There are 15 cuts & 5 scintillating bonus tunes. The guitars wail, when necessary & the beat goes into your toes. They’re all creative morsels produced by the Athens, GA-based Chris McKay & Grammy-nominated David Barbe on the remastered Satisfactionista (Drops Oct 20– Bored Music Geek Recordings) — originally recorded in 2007.
McKay who fought medical issues throughout this recording continued & performed bravely. It’s primarily power-pop, with dense jangly guitars, smooth vocals, textured instrumentation, a dab of well-placed sonics & marvelous R&R passages. The Squeeze era of Dilford, Tilbrook, Jools Holland & Carrack will come to mind on “Rage On,” — an infectious melody & unison vocalizing. Quite excellent. The group’s ability to capture each tune creatively makes it all the more sustaining.
“From Now ‘Til Then,” is peppered with sweet guitar chords & snappy beats. A little Beaver Brothers’ oriented (“Ventriloquisms”) but without their bombastic orchestrations that was their signature.
Then comes the King Crimson-like mellotron intro to “Tonight Never Happened,” with its haunting structure & bright guitar. This is quite an accessible tune. Not too psychedelic or progressive but it has that Amon Duul II texture just before the vocals enter. This is also a style widely used by the poor man’s Moody Blues known as Barclay James Harvest (“Hymn”). This is the music that is Benedictine & brandy to my ears. Excellent. This shows ingenuity.
The band rocks efficiently (“Happy Here & Now”) & not every tune is sugar-coated. Some have gasoline & fire. It has moments of Todd Rundgren’s Utopia & with “Wide Bicycle,” the band taps into Syd Barrett/Robyn Hitchcock.
The gritty “Something Unseen,” is almost PIL vocally with The Animals’ Andy Summers guitar overtones from his solo on “Coloured Rain” on the “Love Is” LP. It’s all engaging & interesting.
Highlights – “An Uncertain Flight,” “Sadder Day,” “Rage On,” “Sorry, Joe” “From Now ‘Til Then,” “Tonight Never Happened,” “Happy Here & Now,” “Scared of Myself,” “Wide Bicycle,” “Something Unseen” & “Best Case Scenario.”
Musicians – Original lineup – Chris McKay, Frank DeFreese, Joe Orr & Josh Harrison (later guitar), Mike Garson (piano) & Brad Morgan (drums).
Color photo courtesy of Manda McKay. The 77-minute CD @ Bandcamp & https://chrismckay.com/