Refreshing sound from River City Extension

by Andrew Scoggins

Courtesy of Pat Furey
Courtesy of Pat Furey

River City Extension is a complex blend of everything popular music is missing.

With unflinching, relentless confidence the group melds blues, Americana, mariachi and punk rock together into something the band has dubbed “chamber punk” on its album “The Unmistakable Man.”

The album unfolds slowly at first, drawing the listener in with mid-tempo, pop-influenced tunes such as “Friends and Family” that rely more on lead singer Joe Michelini’s painfully honest lyrics than complicated song structures or concepts.

It isn’t until the album rolls headlong into the fourth track “South for the Winter” that it becomes apparent that it really is something different and something incredibly visceral.

After a simple fingerpicked riff, Michelini softly lays out the things wrong in his life in a way that nearly every listener will immediately empathize with. Once the listener has been caught up in the crooning, a loud burst of feedback shocks the listener into complete attention as Michelini finishes his verse before the build-up reaches a crescendo and explodes. The caterwauling electric guitar blasts while being backed by pounding drums as the lyrics snarl.

Although this type of loud-soft dynamic has been explored again and again in rock music it is done here in such an honest and believable manner that one cannot help but be sucked into it. The rest of the album unfolds carefully with each song revealing and embracing another aspect of the group’s menagerie of influences.

It has every aspect of a homegrown American band that could possibly be wanted with so many little eccentricities that make every spin of the record completely different. For such a young band to have so much potential at first glance one would only think it was a matter of time before it is swept up by some major label and will then be playing for automobile advertisements. But there is something so honest and real about this band that it would almost be a good thing if every middle-aged soccer mom and wannabe hipster knew the band’s music.

These are the kinds of songs that would get people enthusiastic about music again; it would make people realize there is music that isn’t tinny and whining about some girl nor extolling the virtues of fast cars and faster women.

No, it is doubtful one would ever hear the River City Extension at a swanky downtown nightclub drenched in bass. But if people could put on some headphones and simply enjoy the music, they could be taken to a place that’s possibly even better than being trashed and grinding with a stranger they will never see again.

So here’s to hoping the radio will actually play a song with a bit of soul and emotion. Here’s to hoping that someone who reads this will actually go home and listen to this tiny band’s massive album. And here’s to hoping that River City Extension will come back to San Diego in the very near future.

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