In the midst of the alternative explosion of the 90s, the popularity of pub rock began to diminish. Artists in the vein of Huey Lewis & the News, Nick Lowe, and The Georgia Satellites were scratched from the mainstream in favor of the distorted grunge that dominated the radio airwaves. After the 90s presented us with a favorably diverse amount of stylistic fares, Australia emerged in 2000 with several artists who did more than most to remember the pub rock influence of the 70s and 80s. While Jet is unfortunately the most commercialized example, other Australian artists like The Vines and The Drones basked in the revival of pub rock, with one of the only differences being that they were labeled in the press as “indie rock bands” instead of “bar bands.” Naturally, young individuals with musical aspirations in the United States and UK saw Jet’s immediate rise to fame as an indication of things to come. The Hold Steady presented the world with a more respectable route to the genre with their debut in 2004, Almost Killed Me, making the revival significantly more than a guilty pleasure.
Though many of the artists who rose to relative fame during the bar band era of the 80s were from the East Coast, Huey Lewis was actually based out of San Francisco. These words should certainly comes as encouraging to San Diego’s Vinyl Radio, close enough in vicinity to the Bay Area to consider Lewis a homegrown influence at the very least. Like their past influences, the enjoyably named Vinyl Radio incorporate natural rock ‘n’ roll with occasional R&B influences. This trend has grouped them into similar artists who appear to be infatuated with the likes of the Rolling Stones and Cream, with only a few actually possessing the credentials to pull off a considerable likeness. Vinyl Radio are one of the few recent bands that, at least temporarily, have the sheer capability to influence others to revel in the past. Those who were unfortunate enough to have never held an interest in the Stones, The Who, or even the pub rock frequenters of the 80s should spark a new interest when presented with Vinyl Radio, a five-piece who relays much more than the formulaic three-chord spunk.
Vinyl Radio plays like the band at a large venue who would rather have a beer with their fans over rushing out the back door and heading back to the van. Their sound is quite personable, throwing in a variety of wholesome hooks through gritty and raspy vocals that add to the edgy rock ‘n’ roll sound that the group pulls off so well. Their eight-song album, A Better Time Coming, was recorded this past winter and will see a release this summer. I can hardly blame this release date, as the batch of songs on this album are certainly appropriate for a carefree day in the sunlight. “Die Together” initially sounds out of character; the introduction contains a set of twinkling keys and a faint guitar in the distance. When the righteous vocals finally kick in, we are finally given an appropriate glance of Vinyl Radio. An insanely catchy chorus is complemented by a backing setting of musicians who appropriately match one another’s instrumental grasp.
There will likely be complaints from those who prefer unconventional methods of songwriting about the lack of diversity that Vinyl Radio outputs. Several songs on the album like “You Look Good” and “Said Song” sound slightly similar, though with some wear and tear one can differentiate them easily. Weighing the difference between a linear approach and a consistent one could be a tough task at times, though I believe that Vinyl Radio is accomplishing the latter with abruptly energetic staples like “I’ve Gone Soft”. Get ready for some genuine rock ‘n’ roll when you listen to Vinyl Radio. I can only imagine that their live performances are something special. It comes as quite a surprise to me that they remain unsigned.