Sunday, October 29, 2006

Music Review: Marty Casey & Lovehammers

Before Marty Casey became the runner-up on the CBS reality show Rockstar: INXS, he spent time lighting up the windy city as the lead singer of the rock band The Lovehammers.

Formed with childhood buddies, bassist Dino Kourelis and his brother and drummer Bobby Kourelis, The Lovehammers became one of Chicago's most popular club bands. In 2002 they added guitarist Billy Sawilchik and self-produced 4 albums of hard driving rock and roll. Feeling that he needed to take his music to the next level, Marty Casey auditioned for Rockstar: INXS eventually coming in second to the winner J.D. Fortune.

Interviewed soon after the conclusion of the reality show, Casey reasoned on his decision to take a shot at Rockstar success. "I really wasn't willing to make another record if there wasn't some substantial push as compared to what we had already done," Casey explains. "I was kind of at the point where beyond a doubt I needed to go out and discover who I was without the band."

Casey was almost immediately a fan favorite on Rockstar: INXS due primarily to his intense and impassioned performances as well as his easy-going, friendly manner. While he didn't win the spot as the new lead singer of INXS, they did invite him and his band to open for them on the first leg of their Switched On tour. The reality show also led The Lovehammers to their first major record deal through Epic/Burnett records. Though they had been known simply as The Lovehammers, Epic insisted on switching the name to Marty Casey & Lovehammers for their debut. The result is somewhat of a Greatest Hits collection, drawing all but two of its songs from previous albums.

The Lovehammers have enjoyed some limited commercial success since Marty rejoined the band. Their first single, "Trees", debuted on the show as a Casey original and spent time as the #1 download on In 2004 The Lovehammers DVD Live/Raw debuted at #1 on the Billboard DVD charts.

I was able to catch the third show of the INXS/Lovehammers tour and, through the efforts of my superfan wife, meet Marty and the guys. I found them all to be very respectful, appreciative and genuine. During my brief conversation with Marty he looked me in the eyes and acted like I was the only person in the room for the moment. Observing him with others I saw the same pleasant, focused attention on everyone that he met. Their show was high energy, good time rock performed like they were out to win an endurance contest. They have a good time on-stage and it shows.

So, what's the album like you ask? Like I mentioned before, it's primarily a collection of previous work and it both benefits and suffers from this. The benefit is that there is hardly a weak song across all eleven tracks. The first song "Casualty", was written very shortly after Rockstar ended. It's structure is unique and after a couple listens I really liked it. The album itself runs the gamut of differing sounds and influences. The moody, introspective "Rain on the Brain" is my personal favorite bringing Def Leppard's "Hysteria" to mind. There are shades of Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains and Nickelback. "Hold On" conjures "She Sells Sanctuary" by The Cult.

It's therein where the small problem I have with the album lies. Each song seems like an island, a single written without consideration for the whole. This leaves the complete effort feeling a bit disjointed. During Rockstar: INXS Casey stated that he felt music downloads had changed the face of the music industry, making single records more popular than albums. While he does have a point about the state of the industry, I grew up buying and listening to LP's. Continuity is important and this album just doesn't have much of it. Continuity aside though, the quality of the songs themselves on Marty Casey & Lovehammers freshman outing range from good to outstanding and therefore I have to recommend it. The Lovehammers get a pass on this one simply given the circumstances surrounding the lead-up to recording.

There is a lot of fun to be had discovering this album. The high energy, hard hitting guitar riffs are infectious. Drummer Bobby Kourelis is better than average and Marty Casey's voice is energetic and passionate if not perfect. My only complaint in the production of the album is that the bass lines often seemed washed out. That's pretty common with guitar rock but still disappointing.

Overall, Marty Casey has the potential to be a star as either a Lovehammer or a solo artist. A follow-up album with some promotion from their record company would be nice and would go a long way towards showing if they have what it takes as a band to be Rockstars.

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