Abandon Jalopy (Brad Smith / Blind Melon) - "Death and Joy" CD Review ~ BrooklynRocks: NYC Music Blog

Monday, March 05, 2012

Abandon Jalopy (Brad Smith / Blind Melon) - "Death and Joy" CD Review

Abandon Jalopy (Brad Smith / Blind Melon) - 'Death and Joy' CD Review (I’m going to start this review by noting my biases so that anyone reading this can decide if they want to keep reading…

I saw Blind Melon on the MTV 120 Minute Tour and absolutely despised them. After the “No Rain” bee-girl video came out, I felt completely justified in my opinion. Having said all that – Blind Melon bassist Brad Smith’s second solo disc (released under the name Abandon Jalopy), Death and Joy, is a strikingly honest, well-crafted disc and his music straddles the line between John Mayer-ish ‘singer / songwriter’ and 90’s “Modern Rock”.

Brad Smith released his first solo disc (as Abandon Jalopy), Mercy, in 2002 and, after a decade of pursuing other projects that included the band Unified Theory along with a short-lived Blind Mellon reunion, Smith’s second Abandon Jalopy disc dropped last month. Brad said “after Blind Melon ended the second time, it left me with a lot of songs on the burner and something to say. So I coaxed myself— ‘Come on, Brad, get the Jalopy out of the garage!’ It seems as if there were always reasons not to pursue AJ, but at this moment, I’m like, ‘I’ve made a record, I’m going to tour’". For this disc, Smith is joined by a stack of guests which include Blind Melon guitarists Rogers Stevens and Christopher Thorn, Unified Theory vocalist Chris Shinn on backing vocals (who sounds remarkable like Shannon Hoon) and Hoon’s daughter Nico Blue Hoon, who sings backing vocals on the song “Love Has A Way”.

Across the eleven tracks on this disc, the lyrics are fairly introspective. Smith said: “I wrote this song called ‘Death and Joy,’ and it’s about family and growing up, and realizing that life is one of those spots right in the middle of death and joy. You’re not always elated, and you’re only dead one time. So life is really like all these little small things that at the time, don’t seem to really mean that much. I just had an epiphany about what life is, and it made me relax and appreciate what is happening right now, with me and my family and upbringing. ‘I Won’t Be the Same’ is definitely about Shannon [Hoon, Blind Melon's original/late singer]. I don’t think there’s any mystery there. I have a feeling that for each of my AJ records, there’s going to be one song on there about Shannon, just because I think about him every day.

Musically, most of the songs sound like they have their roots in the “modern rock” sound of the 90’s. The disc starts with “Up Til Now” which is an alt-rock number with a shuffling beat and I can’t shake the comparison to Dada’s “I’m Going to Diz Knee Land” when listening to “Black Cloud”. Tracks "All the Way" & "Love Has A Way" are stripped down semi-acoustic affairs that Smith delivers in a style similar to John Maher; “Dragonfly” starts with Smith rapping over a funk beat before heading into the alt-rock body of the song and “Death And Joy” and “Summer Don't Leave” are psychedelic numbers with strong guitar lines, heavy reverb and a pulsing beat.

Smith said “This is my second record in ten years, and I plan on releasing these pretty regularly now. I have enough confidence, I feel like I have enough to say. I like the idea of being completely independent of other band members. This is something I want to leave behind for the world. It might be an overly romantic view, but it’s really the only thing that I have to contribute to the world that’s worth anything. When you get older, you start thinking about, ‘How are you contributing to the world or society?’ Abandon Jalopy is probably my best foot forward, in that regard.

Given that Smith was one of the principal songwriter for Blind Melon, I may have to go back and give them another listen.

Abandon Jalopy