Gasoline Heart - Nostalgia Ain't What It Used to Be
Record Label: P Is for Panda
Release Date: June 23, 2009
"Now the odds of going nowhere are the odds I'd like to beat." Louis Defabrizio sings that verse on the track "Backbooth," and for a man who has been in the music scene since well before most of the people who will read this knew what emo is supposed to be, that line is more than just lyrics in a song. That is life. How else can one explain the release of Gasoline Heart's second full length album of true grit rock 'n' roll, Nostalgia Ain't What It Used To Be on P Is for Panda Records. Defabrizio is not alone either, with bandmembers like John Fortson (ex-Squad 5-0 fame). After the debut You Know Who You Are on now defunct Mono vs. Stereo and the release What Now, a mixture of new tracks and acoustic takes from the songs off the debut under their belts, this band knows that playing straight up rock 'n' roll is not the norm these days. With this knowledge, here they are again doing just that, and they are doing it oh so well.
The vocals on the album may not be the prettiest, and at times, the shrill may be down right uncomfortable, but I find myself having to sing along with every word. Accompany that with unashamed rock 'n' roll played well and with passion, and what I have in my possession is an album that I can play over and over without getting tired of it. Defabrizio touches on everything from queens to veterans to losing loved ones and even talking with a God that uses curse words, all the while making it seem as if catching up in deep conversation with a long time friend. The lyrics may not be from Dylan, but they touch the soul with a heart-on-your-sleeve cliche that have fans holding onto for dear life. Just like with their first full length, I find verses and even entire choruses that sum up what my life is and or I wish it could be.
Musically this is rock 'n' roll and there is really no other way I can describe it. There is no fluff and nothing fancy to be found. Instead there is good guitar, bass, drum and keys working together to rock out hard and fun with a new developed passion on each track. The album is just plain enjoyable with so much more to it underneath that eats at the soul to be more, to be better. The softer sad songs are heart-wrenching and the upbeat rocking anthems make me want to be in the best moment of my life with each one playing in the background. The song "Sunshine State" pays homage to the band's homeland while not exactly painting the prettiest picture of the state I myself live in and love, creating a music depression felt inside the soul. "What We Are" is a great example of the good friend feeling this album gives, with group vocals reminiscent of sitting around a bonfire or in a small venue with good people singing along at a better time and place. Even with the unapologetic rock 'n' roll there is still some room for experimentation shown by the band on "Eager Seas." This is one of the saddest songs on the album, as Defabrizio laments on a man's life gone (suggesting suicide) and his family left behind. As the song hits about the halfway point, the vocals die off to loud yelling and the rising jam grows harder and louder and lasting for three more minutes or so, pushing boundaries of this otherwise very straight forward album.
I find little flaw in this album. I expected more of what the past releases were, and that is what the album brings, but I think this album is even better. If I must find reasons to not label this album a perfect example of American rock 'n' roll, it is in the use of the same song to bookend the album. The album opens with the soft "Never Been Worse," and then the ending track is "Never Been Better." Both of these are the same song and while I greatly enjoy it, I would have preferred another fresh track at the end. Maybe Defabrizio is trying to say something that he thinks is missed the first time around, but I just feel it is not necessary to repeat.
Stand out tracks are hard for this album because it is so good start to finish, but here are a few: "Look Up Baby You're Bleeding," "Eager Seas," "Backbooth," "Can't Keep a Good Kid Down," "What We Are," "Just Like a Ghost."
Gasoline Heart is not paving the way for the next movement in music, but they are making some of the best rock 'n' roll out there in a time when it seems no one wants to make real rock 'n' roll anymore. Nostalgia Ain't What It Used to Be is a soundtrack of life hitting all the highs and lows, right on target with enough wit and earnestness that it makes me want to live my life the way the album makes me feel. Through hardtimes and label changes, Gasoline Heart is still here. Like a letter to all who listen, the album seems to say that life sometimes sucks, and when it feels like rock bottom, the floor caves in and we fall farther, but why not have some fun on the way down, and if we are really lucky, there may just be a trampoline to bounce us back up. Defabrizio says it best "You can't keep a good kid down."
I just want this band to be successful. I tried to keep the review unbiased, but the truth is I love this album and I love this band so it was hard. I have hung out with these guys at shows and drank at the bar with them talking music and why the industry is dying. If you are a music fan these are the type guys you want to support because they are making music for the right reasons.