The 757s : Freeway Surrender

Writing about music is a balancing act, and I have often suggested, that, if left unchecked, it quickly devolves into Mab Libs for the cool kids. Many readers are OK with this, as the paint by number technique allows them to identify bands whose sound or style might be simpatico with their tastes. Most bands don’t mind it either, since it delivers new listeners to their doorstep, with cash on the barrel head. But this kind of writing gets to be a drag, and it’s in everybody’s best interest to shake things up from time-to-time. Conveniently, after a few teases, Freeway Surrender, the sophomore release from The 757s has finally received formal, widespread release. I’ve been enjoying these tunes for a couple months, so given my familiarity with the record, as well as my mostly amiable relationship with the band, I figured this would be a great opportunity to try something a little different.

Always On The Outside should be read as a précis of Freeway Surrender. Guitarists, Zimmerman and Peterson, masters of tahtib, circle their prey, each flashing a supremely-honed blade of lethal sonic vim and vivacity. Their steps, calculated, yet swathed in supreme languor, lest suspicion be aroused in the quarry. They attack without provocation, buttressed by the relentless rhythm section of Pirner and Sutherland, toiling in low-end lockstep. Like a heavyweight sensing his opponent’s will diminishing and legs unsteady, the aggressors redouble their pummeling, landing each note with the ferocity of worn glove leather on defenseless flesh. Stunned, the weary combatant lurches. The assailants, roused by the imminent kill, let forth an ear-shredding din as the strident mass careens madly into the inexorable chorus.

Maybe not. So, scrapping that mess, I decided to give The Lost Generation a whack at it.

I stare at the page, bare but for where I hurriedly wrote Freeway Surrender. Twice more I write each of the words, underlining for emphasis. I want a beer, but I am not to drink until my writing is done for the day. Being midday, the cafe is quiet. I watch people hurry past the large window in time with the single note guitar lines of Crash And Fade; unforced, but not uncomplicated. The 757s are pop music savants, distilling ear candy through an older brother’s record collection, adding a secret handshake of solidarity to all who still revere Fair Warning. The songs are criminally catchy, yet delivered with a level of insolence certain to alienate fragile listeners. This hurdle is well-documented in the annals of Twin Cities music. I recall a basement party at the turn of the 90s, where I drank in front of a TV as to not miss the premier of I’ll Be You on MTV. Few in attendance recognized the significance, and fewer still shared my enthusiasm. The evening ended with me nearly in a row with several of the hosts , while my associates, whose habit of filching beer instigated the altercation, took flight. That was how I learned to not drink with cowards.

True story, but it somehow misses the point.

So, I’ve determined that The 757s are just a bad band. Not bad, in terms of “these guys suck,” mind you, but a bad band to try to write about in extravagant prose. String together page after page of adjectives and ill-conceived metaphors, and you’re not one bit closer to explaining why Freeway Surrender is a fantastic album than you would be if you made a list of everything the band ate during the recording process. As much as it pains me to use the word, this is an undeniably fun record, one better suited to listening to while driving around on a summer day, than snowbound in a cabin an hour north of Duluth. The 757s are throwbacks, and not unlike our hometown nine, they do all the little things the right way. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that these guys cut their teeth in the music biz back when a Pro Tools operator was the guy with the two-year votech degree who snaked your toilet. At a time when taxi drivers and glamour technicians are conversant about Auto-Tune, it’s reassuring when a band like The 757s is able to win over audiences at SXSW with a little of that old Twin Cities black magic, and a lot of volume.

This is not to suggest that The 757s are rawk dinosaurs, passing time until their eventual extinction. The performances on Freeway Surrender are much improved from the debut, and the entire record no doubt benefits from more time in the writing and rehearsing stages. The rough edges of Tell The Pilgrims It’s A Potluck have been planed, but instead of rendering this batch of tunes toothless, this attention to detail allows one to truly appreciate just how well-written these songs are. Pop culture references, inside jokes and homage to the big hitters of music history aside, this record is, at its very core, 11 great pop songs that will stick to your ribs like a steaming bowl of Quaker Oats on a cold, January Minnesota morning. And if the record’s closing (and strongest) track, The Blind Will Lead The Naked is any indication, The 757s are a band whose best work still lies ahead of them.

MP3 : The 757s – Teenage Logic

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7GPEAObO04&hl=en&fs=1&]

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  • Anonymous

    July 16, 2009 [ 2:24 pm ]

    Thanks for the positive words about one of my favorite bands, and one of the best albums to be released this year. I had the pleasure & honor of hosting The 757s for a show last weekend at Hayward Wisconsin's Park Theatre, part of a triple bill with The Alrights from Duluth & Bloodhook from Van Nuys, Calif.The 757s burned white-hot for that night's first set, so much so that I feared the rest of the show could prove to be anti-climactic…fortunately I stacked the bill with bands that would carry an entire show on their own (no "opening" or "warm-up" acts here; all were co-headliners) and responded in kind with their own incandescent sets…The 757s' Master Class In Rock 'n Roll set the bar high and the rest of the bands delivered accordingly. The "afterglow" is just beginning to subside…and my voice is coming back nicely, too.BTW, that tune on the live video was written in the van on the way to The Current's studio…not bad, huh?–Jeffrey Jones, WOJB-FM

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