There was a time when Kalamazoo, Michigan was the next Seattle, after it was the next Minneapolis, and the next Cincinnati, and Detroit…The point is, there has been a LOT of great music coming out of that little college town that only alumni know about. And that’s a shame.
The latest best band from the home of Bell’s Beer and Heritage Guitars is Rural Electrification Act. Fronted by longtime Kalamazoo scene veterans Matt Sahlgren and Tony Gregor, REA turns in what they call “twangy power pop,” and I can’t argue with that description though I do think it could limit their immediate reach for those too hip to regress to anything “alt-country.” I mean, that was soo 1998!
And tough shit for them. Magnolia is a tight album that borrows at least as much from Big Star’s “13” and early Lemonheads as Son Volt or the Bottle Rockets. In fact, the biggest influence on this band is clearly the Sinatras, but I am likely to be the only reviewer to know that since the Sinatras are another incredible Kalamazoo band nobody outside of southwest Michigan has heard of. Sure, there’s a pinch of knee slapping goofiness on “Denise Fakes a Smile,” and more than a hint of twang sprinkled here and there, but this is not an album that’s easily lumped into this sub-genre or another.
And the pop elements are bolstered by drummer Chris Kolodziezyk’s spirited yet tasteful backbeat. My only real complaint about the album is the overuse of reverb on the drums. C’mon fellas, let the snare drum crack!
Kalamazoo was the town that should have been and never was. Here’s to hoping the Rural Electrification Act goes beyond the shadow of Waldo Stadium and finds the audience that’s surely waiting.