Reviewed by Brett Thorne.
My band (Zlam Dunk) is sort of a chameleon. Not only are we reptiles, like our smooth-skinned friends, but we can blend in just about anywhere. We have shared the stage with crap-tastic screamo bands (From First To Last), doomsday-inspired funk-rockers (Dr. Manhattan), freak folks (Cast Spells) and lots of variations of the “indie-rock” formula (including a solo performer who played his entire set while crouched under a tee-pee).
And so it happened that a few months ago we played with Fresh Millions. Yes, the air was alive that night with news that a member of The Sword would be playing with the band, so I took my place close to the bar (God bless whoever came up with the concept of drink tickets) and prepared to get annihilated by some sort of epic dance-metal uber-thrashing. Maybe because I was still picking bits of cake out of my hair from Custodian’s set, but I just wasn’t feeling the tunes. It was just kind of standard dance-rock sans memorable riffs or sass or epic booty-shaking anthems. Just a lot of hi-hat and awkward kids in the front row refusing to do so much as tap their foot. So I was utterly unprepared when I was drop kicked onto the dance floor by their eponymous EP.
Opener “Forever” begins with sampled vocals set to Dan Skarbek’s fantastic drumming before building into a wave of dance-rock instrumentation that is more rock than dance. A comparison to Head Automatica would not be far off the mark.
“We can’t wait any longer/We can’t wait to do the helicopter” is the vocoded refrain of the EP’s second track “Helicopter.” The song features a clean guitar riff I could see Tom Selleck playing if he had time to stop grooming his mustache and learn to play an instrument. The song is sexy, to say the least. But not in the dance-with-me-tonight-because-the-world-is-ending-tomorrow sexy that Austin’s L.A.X. so deftly utilizes. The vibe is more dance-with-me-tonight-because-tomorrow-I’m-going-to-watch-Tron-on-a-continuous-loop. The vocoder and the sleek, sexy guitar riff work off of each other to create what amounted to a Revenge of the Nerds dance party in my brain (and don’t worry Lewis Skolnick, you don’t have to hide behind a Darth Vader mask to get with the pretty girl tonight).
The standout track of the album is the third, “Monty.” It was at this point that I began hating the band, wishing I had written the insanely danceable and pinch harmonic-filled guitar hook that carries the first half of the song to the epic bridge and reappears at the close.
The fourth and fifth track, the Million Dollar Bill pts. I & II, wander into jam band territory, but before the album loses too much momentum the second half of the suite picks up steam and the dance party keeps raging.
At nine songs, Fresh Millions sounds more like a shortened LP than an EP. There were a couple of times when I was ready to grab my coat and head for the door, so I wonder if, with a little more trimming, this great extended EP might have made an unforgettable six-song EP. But, I guess every dance party needs a couple minutes of downtime when people can collect themselves and practice their next moves. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go learn the riff on “Monty” and rip it off for my band’s next song.
Red River rating: 8.0 out of 10