Under Review: Codeine Velvet Club – Codeine Velvet Club

It might just be me, but I feel as though members of newer bands have more respect for their bands’ identities and integrity than members of older bands.  You need only consult an article in the new issue of SPIN (click HERE, go to page 74) to see how lesser members of classic rock bands are exploiting their bands’ names in order to stage a cash grab “reunion” tour.  When newer bands break up (or sometimes, even before that happens), the members are quick to form new projects that, while they may have some sonic similarities, are distinctly different from their previous outfits.  Jon Lawler was known as the lead singer of The Fratellis up until a few months ago.  Towards the end of last year, he formed a new group, the Codeine Velvet Club, and released a self-titled debut album.  Much like Alex Turner did with The Last Shadow Puppets, Lawler took the new group as an opportunity to branch out from basic guitar-based rock into a more complex, ‘60s pop-influenced sound.  The band’s retro style might be a little put-on, but at least it’s stylish.  Codeine Velvet Club still features the massive hooks of Costello Music, but it’s also mature and intricately constructed like Here We Stand.  The album leads with its two previously-released singles, “Hollywood” and “Vanity Kills.”  The former is a rousing and time-shifting rush, and the latter is a honky strut with Lou Hickey (Lawler’s project partner) taking lead.  The album works best when Lawler and Hickey trade verses and choruses, as they do on the smashing “Little Sister,” which bounces between Lawler’s rocking chorus and Hickey’s swinging verses seamlessly.  “The Black Roses” features a similar form without changing the music so drastically between sections, and it still works.

Some of the material on Codeine Velvet Club was intended for The Fratellis, and it wouldn’t seem so strange for this to have been the next direction they explored.  The tremendous “I Would Send You Roses” was evidently supposed to be for a collaboration with Roger Daltrey, and the languid “Nevada” sounds like a sequel to Here We Stand’s closer “Milk And Money.”  Codeine Velvet Club ends on one of its best notes, with a cover of The Stone Roses’ “I Am The Resurrection,” arguably one of the best album closers ever.  The new rendition adds a bright organ and cuts out the extended guitar solo, but it still does an incredible job in reinterpreting the song without being too hesitantly reverent.  From what I’ve read, Lawler and Hickey have already started working on a follow-up album, indicating that this is more than just a tossed-off side project.  Indeed, the time and care that goes into the Codeine Velvet Club’s music is heard throughout the record.  I’m not sure if they do any Fratellis songs in concert, but even if they did, the Codeine Velvet Club’s own unique character defines them from Lawler’s previous band.  This isn’t The Fratellis 2, and it’s never going to be.  And as much as I loved The Fratellis, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

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~ by E. on June 1, 2010.

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