December 12, 2013

CD review: Welterweight proves that a band doesn’t have to come on strong

The ‘Bar Talk in a Flat’ EP contains five songs that don’t demand all your attention.

By Kristin Dicara-McClellan

“Pleasant.” That’s the word. “Bar Talk in a Flat,” a new five-song EP by Welterweight, is a pleasant work of art.

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HOW IT RATES

WELTERWEIGHT – "BAR TALK IN A FLAT"

Produced by Welterweight and Todd Hutchisen

★★★

Based on a four-star scale

All of the tunes have a great groove, thanks to a rhythm section that really knows how to lay it down. Each has a slightly different beat to it, all being pulled together by a whimsical and earnest voice.

The lyrics give off a feel that is one part confessional, one part nonsense and a half-part that might give you a clear glimpse of the person behind them.

There is a bit of contradiction in the feel of the music. On one hand, it has a haunting ambience, especially the first track, “The Last House on a Dead End Street.” Its mesmerizing beats and clever instrumental arrangements give the song a “come hither” resonance. On the other hand, the lyrical content of many of the songs can be quite vacuous, but just in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way, as in the song “Old Spice.” I think that title speaks for itself.

The songs are the type of soundtrack you might want to have for a night out, grabbing some drinks with a few good friends – granting one the ability to focus on the entertainment in the corner or not. Perhaps that is just me taking the bar-talk reference to heart. Regardless, it is a solid image to have in one’s head before letting this EP spin.

There’s good juju in this compilation and that really comes across.

For the gear-heads in this town, Todd Hutchinsen, once again, demonstrates such a keen sense of placement in all these mixes as well. I couldn’t help but notice that the guitars and all the extraneous instruments are given a light-handed treatment that helps them snuggle up together in a way that truly does complement each other nicely.

In a way, I’d like to say to some of the indie bands in the area that these guys are a fine example of how to do nothing ground-breaking and still turn out a respectable product. Sometimes, you just want the band to play without demanding every ounce of your attention, and it seems as though they intuit this somehow.

A lot of the vocal work is loose, but in a good way. I am not sure why some bands can attempt this and succeed, and others cannot, but Welterweight pulls it off with one hand behind their back.

You can check them out at their CD release party on Friday at Blue in Portland.

Kristin DiCara-McClellan is a Portland freelance writer.

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