Descendants of the Glorious Dead
On their new album, Descendants of the Glorious Dead, Casino Bulldogs present an appealing collection of rock with the intriguing but unobtrusive thematic depth of a concept album. The album cruises briskly along with an uptempo, rocking mood throughout. Singer/guitarist Greg Trimeloni peppers the vocals with touches of sarcasm and ironic nonchalance. The record continues a tradition of alternative rock that matured in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the end of grunge and the advent of a rejuvenated pop-punk. Staying within this tradition, the nine tracks still sound like they belong together without sounding overly derivative or too similar to each other. "Kids and Chemicals," arguably the hardest rocking song on the album, is strikingly similar to tracks like "Get Free" by The Vines and "Juicebox" by The Strokes. But such resemblances do not detract from the kicks you'll get from rocking out to it, if you're into that sort of thing. Something else that sets Descendants apart from other first-time-in-the-studio efforts is the absence of special effects, processing, and other recording gimmicks, suggesting a discipline rarely seen in such situations. There are really only a handful of gentle post-production flourishes here - the most obvious is a squealing synth oscillator - that will still contribute meaningfully to the songs long after the effects have become hopelessly dated. Without such distractions, the band is free to show off their songwriting and musicianship. Beginning with "Permanent," the band establishes it's fondness for the off-kilter with a warbling rhythm and meditative lyrics. "Annapolis" boasts an atonal guitar solo that manages still to be quite melodic, while "Bloodsuckers" repeats and repeats interlocking guitar riffs that gradually prove themselves to be quite brilliant. The marvelously-named "Delmarvelous!" is a study of the electric guitar's versatility. Against the bouncing propulsion of Bill Murtha's bass guitar, Trimeloni executes what would be a rather monotonous guitar riff if it were sketched out in a score, but which when listening, is actually a riveting experience. Exploring triads and harmonics and overtones, he exacts maximum tone and expression from what would otherwise be a pretty simplistic guitar part. This is, of course, all in the grand tradition of rock and roll. In the same song, Trimeloni's lethargic vocals begin with notes of insouciance, then erupt into an impassioned (and unintelligible) scream just before the big guitar solo. A similar attitude prevails across the record. Close listeners will notice certain themes creeping among the lyrics. To forestall any befuddlement, here is Trimeloni's take their meaning: 'Descendants of the Glorious Dead is a concept album that tells the story of two close friends who die of electrical shock while the boat they were traveling on begins to sink in the ocean. Instead of "crossing over," the two ghosts choose to hang around and take care of a little unfinished business. Along the way they develop an unhealthy obsession with "observing the living." One of the ghosts becomes obsessed with watching over and protecting a young girl named "May." Over time the two spirits find plenty to disagree on, develop a distaste for one another, and eventually go their separate ways... only to meet again years later while attempting to avoid the unavoidable. [It] is a story about love, revenge, neglect, indifference, and recovery.' This adventure, however interesting, is really optional for the listener. For the album's great success is not in explicating the tribulations of the afterlife, but in cobbling a great number of rock cliches into a pastiche of enthusiastic new music. -Album reviewed by Matthew at burghsounds.com.