By DONNA BALANCIA
Change is good but it can make people romanticize the past and remember only the rosey side of the way things used to be.
That’s not the case with Vince Conrad and his new album Transition. The latest EP by the punk rock musician and songwriter is not a lilly-lined stroll along memory lane. Rather, Transition is more like an anxiety-ridden dash down a dark alley in The Bronx.
Obviously, Transition is about change. That could be the change Conrad has endured since his beloved punk genre was abducted by non-punks, folk singers, and worse, advertising agencies. Conrad comes from a time when punk was about protest; it railed angrily against commercial ventures and lowdown politicians. And within that music’s mission there were real stories.
With Transition, Conrad has come to steer the ship home.
Work to Recapture the Authentic Sound
The EP Transition is five tracks of what appears to be intensive work to recapture an authentic sound from a time when you could say what you wanted without fear of retribution. And the collection is successful on that level. There’s no doubt this album was made by a punk rocker from the day. The album was engineered by Patrick Burkholder at Pawnshop Studios in LA.
On the title track and opening song, “Transition,” Conrad takes the listener down an ever-evolving journey, changing keys and lead instruments. He may be looking for something new and he succeeds with this song, which inspires and makes people feel like they actually might be able to break free of the grip of the doldrums. Or Corporate America. Either way, the song is a call to action to drop the ridiculous and adopt the sublime. In today’s world, more and more people opt for the safe route, sticking with a job they hate, or staying in a relationship that’s miserable, just to avoid “transition.” Those are the people who need to listen to this song. For the rest, it’s positive reinforcement.
Confrontation and Anger on Gritty NYC Streets
“My Life” starts out with some seriously fuzzy guitar, and highlights Conrad’s voice and songwriting ability. He’s not happy about a confrontation and makes it clear that he won’t tolerate someone coming to his “side of life.” Conrad’s past may be dictating the course of this song as he reflects on his days coming up as a New York City punk with his band. At least he is true to his roots because this track, with its crying lead guitar and strong rhythm, really challenges the listener to go back and see what that late-’70s punk scene in NYC was all about. P.S., here’s a news flash: It was not the most wholesome of times.
“Nowhere” is a dreamy psych-rock song a la George Harrison, or an early 1970s song by The Beatles. It’s a tip of the hat to the creative genius that The Beatles brought to the table in that LSD-infused period. Then, just when you’re getting into that head space, a little more than halfway through the song, it changes rhythm and quickens the pace, possibly representing the protagonist’s ability to find his groove. One of the good things about music — like life — is you can alter your direction at any time. Too few people take that opportunity is what the song seems to indicate.
“Ozone” has a big tom-tom beat that carries the song throughout, performed exquisitely by renowned drummer Tony Matteucci of The DoGs of Detroit. His contribution to the record is clear across the whole album, but evident on this track. It’s a song where his role is front and center. Matteucci’s background is impressive, he’s a studio drummer and also a devoted performer who’s played on multiple recordings for various musicians. He has a particular talent to interpret a song and lay down a memorable pattern of textures.
She’s a ’21st Century Punk Rock Girl’
Conrad’s fifth track is “Punk Rock Girl,” which hurls the listener into a bar with a wild woman. Do you stay or do you go? Apparently the protagonist may be intrigued by this type of person because he sticks around long enough to analyze all the issues of this “nuclear bombshell about to explode.” The song has an interesting contrast to it. It has a driving beat, but the lyrics on the chorus slow down as if spiraling down into the world of this “21st Century punk rock girl” and into her lurid trap. Maybe it’s not all that awful a place to be. Again, there are musical hints of Magical Mystery Tour, making us re-think what we ingest prior to our next trip to the local watering hole.
There is a throughline with the album Transition. The collection of songs tells stories about a punk rock world that existed — and thrived — in the absense of cell phones, selfies and social media platforms. Conrad’s punk days bring us to a time when almost anything could happen, and when it did, it wasn’t broadcast all over your friends’ timelines.
And while many say rock is dead, at least within the rough and dingy walls that surround Conrad’s latest album, Transition, the music — and the stories — are very much alive.
Tracklist for Transition:
- My Life
- Punk Rock Girl
Transition will be available for download at the Vince Conrad Productions label website. Go to Vince Conrad Productions for more information.