Michael Goodman’s group is back, and boy are they good. Cheesy, I know, but Goodman’s latest LP, The Vicissitudes, is out now and ready to rock your world.
Released on Invertebrate Records, The Vicissitudes (try saying it five times a fast as you can) is Goodman’s third album. If I had to describe the album in one word, I think, quite ironically, the word would be “good”. Right off the bat starting with the album’s opener, “She Sez”, it’s clear Goodman and company put a lot of time and effort into this project. The album is well thought out and masterfully produced and engineered to create a rock album that’ll be sure to please pretty much everyone.
Goodman takes influence from a lineage of rock acts that have seemed to steadily disappear over the past 10 or so years. Bands like Cage the Elephant and The Kooks are among Goodman’s peers as some of the last surviving members of the alt rock revolution of the early and mid 2000s. Goodman, however, takes the blueprint of classic alt rock and adds subtle elements of 60s psych rock, Brit pop, and surf rock to make it all his own.
The second track on the album “Modern Girl”, for example, incorporates pleasant baroque-esque pianos with a classic rock lineup to give the track a real 60s throwback vibe. “Weathervane”, the track directly after “Modern Girl”, changes direction to incorporate some acoustic instrumentation and a more galloping beat. “Weathervane” is the song Green Day would write if they went back to 1955 and tried to write a rockabilly song.
Much of the album’s subject matter is surprisingly dark and tortured. Whether it be the sad and lonely “Love Alone” or the jealous-turned-spiritual campfire song “I Saw Him”, much of Goodman’s lyrics deal with pain or blatant pessimism. The production on Goodman’s vocals throughout much of the album sound really great and add to the album’s classic rock roots. The last third of “I Saw Him”, however, sounds like a bunch of friends gathered around a campfire to honor and sing about the beauty of life (something we’d all love to do).
On “Hourglass”, my favorite track on the album, Goodman sings in the chorus “I’m waiting for my hourglass to turn” as if he’s running out of time. It’s unexpected hearing the young songwriter sing about how he wants to turn his life’s hourglass over and start new when he’s so young and has so much more life to live. Throughout the album, and on this track in particular, Goodman makes it clear that he is fully self-aware of his situation and doesn’t feel the need to make up fantasies of grandeur to satisfy his desire of what could have been, even if his current situation isn’t exactly what he wanted it to be.
Not all the tracks got me going as much as “Hourglass” did, unfortunately. The quirkiness and silliness of “Hiccup” gets old fast and the tune just doesn’t do anything for me. I like the idea of “…Wake up America” but I think the vocal distortion and short track length make it sound incomplete and unfinished.
Other than a few standout tracks, not many in the track listing really sparked my interest or made me turn my ear. Instead of creating an album with a diverse tack list of dynamic songs, I found myself listening to 12 radio-friendly tunes that sound eerily familiar. I think the reason why most listeners will enjoy this album is simply because it sounds so familiar and safe. This is a “good” album and not a “great” one because it does everything it wants to do well but it doesn’t push alt rock anywhere where it hasn’t been already. If you’re looking for a well produced, tried-and-true alt rock record, however, this one may be the one for you.