Some of my favorite roots-rock – alt country music has come from UK artists, Jon Langford, Joe Strummer, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello come immediately to mind, and these guys are strong contenders for that list.
The album has a kind of late 80s- early 90s feel to it. I mean that in a good way, of course. They’ve taken elements from a lot of my favorite bands of that era (any band that lists Green on Red as an influence has my attention) and mixed it up into a very listenable 11 tracks.
Singer Pete Lacey’s voice bears a strong resemblance to early Michael Stipe, if he had a little brogue that is, except you can make out the words. There’s also an REM vibe to a few of the tracks, most notably the acoustic Angel Of Destruction,
Elsewhere you’ll find the melodic sense of the Jayhawks and Whiskeytown with the occasional Wilco flourish here and there.
The songs on Rustbelt Sun are written and put together exceptionally well. They’re mostly acoustic guitar based with some choice lead guitar by Joe Whyte and nice harmonica by Lacey. The rest of the Atheists are drummer Bob Anderson and bassist Scott Vanden Akker. Pete, Scott and Joe had been in a previous band that, according to Joe, dissolved into acrimony and bad drugs. They reformed with Anderson and it all sounds pretty unacrimonious. Despite the ironic name they play pretty straightforward, honest music.
Around the middle of the record there’s a particularly strong run of songs with Forty Days Of Flood, Belgrove Hotel and, my favorite, Mississippi. You can hear two of those on their MySpace page. It’s well worth the eight or nine minutes to check them out.
For the most part, Rustbelt Sun is catchy without being trite, laid back without being boring, well produced without being too produced and all in all a very promising debut.