"It's just about impossible not to like the band." - Portland Phoenix "Expect big returns from these three." - Capital Weekly The Returnables have been crisscrossing the Northeast for more than four years, building a loyal following and a back catalog of covers and originals more diverse than any radio station's. Now, with a CD release under their belts and another one on the way, they're setting their sights on bigger and better things. Guitarist Ian Parker, bassist Josh Robbins, and drummer Harley Smith met in music classes at UMaine-Augusta. Their musical backgrounds couldn't have been more different - while Parker was steeped in classic rock and Robbins thrived on the punk and indie sounds of the '80s, Smith favored the jazzy music of jam bands. You wouldn't think a band could work with influences this diverse, but the Returnables do, and brilliantly. Starting as a bar band, they built up a repertoire that melds the last half of the 20th century's musical history in unexpected ways - Melanie's "Brand New Key" turns into Motorhead's "Ace of Spades," and the swagger of the Rolling Stones' "Loving Cup" can be followed by vague paranoia of Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown." On The Returnables, the band's debut album, the covers fall by the wayside, but the influences remain. "Penelope" starts off the album in a languid haze, with a British-Californian pop sound and lyrics with an odd delicacy (who sings "I'd really love to stay for tea" anymore?), veering off into a psychedelic wash of organ and backwards guitars. Ah, you think, a trippy throwback band. Not so fast. The next track, "Crooked Kingsnake," has a crunch and stomp that make it impossible not to move. It recalls the Rolling Stones circa Emotional Rescue, if Mick 'n' Keith had been out to prove something. Time to cool things down a little with "Who's Wearing Your Shoes?", a slinky tale of intrigue and mystery. Imagine Robert Cray scoring a noir film set in a rainy neon L.A. of the past. "Make a Mess" is all grungy groove, and introduces the best euphemism for sex we've seen in a long time. The falsetto vocals go with the guitars the way cream goes with chocolate. "Answer the Phone" sounds like a chugging 60's country rocker, with banjos, steel guitar and handclaps. Then comes the instrumental break, with two separate guitar solos that mesh perfectly as they take the song somewhere altogether different. When the Returnables say they're "Stuck in a Rut," they're talking about slogging through hard times, but when they have music like this to back them up, it's hard to feel sorry for them. This track has a loose swing to it, helped out by keyboards and a sax solo that fits right in. Gather 'round a Renaissance-Fair campfire for "Broken Glass," which recalls "From the Beginning" by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The acoustic instrumentation compliments the sad and confused lyrics just right. Watch out for the title character's appearance at the end. So many things in life just ain't fair, and in "It Ain't Fair" the Returnables list a number of them, to a country-and-western-on-speed soundtrack. The guitar solo recalls Duane Eddy; the four bars done in waltz time...don't. Yet another 90 degree turn later, we enter a "Strange Place." Now the band takes on the characteristics of Syd-era Pink Floyd and gets all dreamy on us, coasting by clouds and listening to the colors of their dreams. By the time it dissolves into random nonsense, you'll swear you were locked in a box of '60s. What better way to get out of the box than by meeting "Even Steven"? It's a melding of chicken-scratch guitar, disco bass, new wave synth, and secret-weapon drumming. That propels the song to a hard driving finish. Oh, and don't miss the hidden track. Four words: "It's a Wonderful Lightfoot." These originals are cheered even louder than the covers when the Returnables play live. The connection they share with their fans is as much a part of the band's story as their music; wherever they play, there are people in the audience who have traveled as much as 100 miles to see them for the 10th or 20th time. This kind of devotion is rare, and the band continues to earn it and strengthen it with every show. Now back in the studio to record a follow-up CD, Parker, Robbins and Smith are ready to show the world what the state of Maine has known for some time - the Returnables are less a band than a celebration that demands to be shared. ENJOY!