Click to hear: “Walken”
Grand Hotel is a confident, ambitious young band. They’re trying to meld ’80s pop with ’90s noise to make music that’s smart, danceable and rockin’. On their sophomore release, In Color, they mostly succeed.
It takes balls to start off an album like this with an eight-minute song. Based on a driving drumbeat and popping bass, “Hurricane” builds beautifully into a swirl of chiming and scraping guitars reminiscent of The Church’s early work. The gamble pays off.
Singer Kyle Gervais has a strong voice with a cocksure snarl. The other four guys in the band contribute backing vocals that cushion the edge in Gervais’ voice, much the same way beds of keyboard notes soften the crunch of the power chords on these songs.
“Walken” enters with a gnarly guitar line over a lopsided beat and delivers a catchy chorus, but then the band bridges into an ethereal section you didn’t expect. “Boomboomboom” follows a similarly jagged path into a pretty bridge built of oohs and aahs.
There are a few missteps. The two spacey instrumentals thrown in among the 11 tracks here don’t really add anything to the mix. They just sound indulgent. And the ’80s pop influences can be tricky to pull off with a straight face. “In the Bank” and “Body Touch” come perilously close to curdling into cheese, though when the latter starts to sound just like the chorus of Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” the band playfully chooses to emphasize the reference rather than pretend it’s not there.
The album ends on a sour note, but with a strong song. “Thanks!” is a pissy poke at the local music scene. “Thanks to you for not coming to shows / And thanks to you for saying you would … Thanks to you, I’m playing covers / And thanks to you, I’ve got no dough.”
Grand Hotel shouldn’t have to complain about being unappreciated anymore. In Color deserves respect. And if the turnout at their Port City Music Hall CD release last month is any indication, they’re getting it now.
— Chris Busby
Grand Hotel plays a set of original music followed by Modest Mouse’s album, Good News for People Who Love Bad News, on Tues., March 22, at The Big Easy, 55 Market St., Portland, at 9 p.m. For more on the band, visit grandhotelmusic.com.