So it’s, like, 1976 and you’ve got two tour buses on the road, rushing to get to the next gig, okay? Heading east is Jeff Beck’s band from the Wired album sessions – jazzy/funked-up/fusion deluxe – and roaring down the road headed west are the Ohio Players with their single “Love Rollercoaster” blasting out of dashboards all over the land. (You with me so far? The two buses are headed toward each other, right? Pay attention, because this gets tricky.)
The bands are running late and both bus drivers are really pushing things, balling the jack on a flat and empty back road. But – oh no! – a twist of fate finds the two tour buses going way too fast on the same back road on the same blind corner at the same time and – WHAM! – there’s a horrendous crash and all the members of the two bands are somehow compressed into one quartet, okay? (That’s the tricky part I warned you about.)
Oh, wait. Except now it’s 2010, so there needs to be some sort of time-travel element in there, too … maybe the two bands were traveling on spaceships back in 1976. Yeah – that works. And then when the two spaceships crash into each other on the way to their gigs, there’s some sort of weird shorting-out of the onboard control systems and it zaps everybody 34 years into the future.
There – that makes more sense.
Anyhow, that’s about as close as I can come to explaining the sound of The League of Proper Musicians on their self-titled debut album. What you have here are 10 tracks heavy on the butt-shakin’ wump (which figures, seeing’s how the rhythm section makes up three-quarters of the band) with some wild-ass guitar over top that ranges from big ol’ monster power chords to fearless fusion and wokka-wokka funk riffs. (That would be six-stringer Chris Hatton who also shares vocal duties with bassist Anthony Place.) Even when Hatton is tearing up the neck in a screaming lead, he’s still locked in the pocket with Place, drummer Mike Reyes, and percussionist Jason Seich. The fact of the matter is, while Hatton may be the front guy, the League’s sound is so groove-driven it could almost be mistaken for a bass-first Les Claypool project. (By the way, I bet Col. Les wishes he came up with a title like the album’s opening cut: “Mr. Rectid Anger”. Say it three times – you’ll get it.)
Production on The League of Proper Musicians is dry and immediate, making the boys sound like they’re getting down with it in your living room right now – and allowing the individual chunks of each song’s DNA to seek their own level as the moment dictates. There are focused in-and-out funkmonster attacks (“Drink Like I’m Drunk” and “Because You Love Me”); there are moments which almost border on grunge (“Stand Up”); and – yes, boys and girls – there are times when The League of Proper Musicians is a jamband (“Stroking Out The Pocket”) – and a darn good one, at that.
And there’s more: “Make It So Hard” is a classic (but rare) example of white-boys-do-Latin-but-do-it-good-nonetheless (think “Plane Crash” once Moe got comfy enough to really start letting the beast loose on the road). Oh – and that earlier Ohio Players reference? You just put your ear to “The Pistaccio Cup” and after six minutes of Hatton growling, yipping, drawling, and testifying over a brain-pummeling tumble-funk workout, you tell me who’s driving that love rollercoaster, baby. Huh!