Johnny on the Spot – Steelesque and the Pittsburgh sound. (music review)
According to the bands website, Steelesque originally started with the idea of bringing together musicians (unique sounds) to share ideas. This seemed to have worked, because two musicians decided to stay – it seems after all the beer and chips ran out. Rob Eldrigdge (who conceived of the original idea) and drummer Josh Eagen. Together they wrote Johnny On The Spot, a six song EP that births a certain sort of sound that combines roots and influences against a retro template that comes up with a very Pittsburgh sound that could also be from almost anywhere. Because the original idea is multiplicity of sounds, Eldridge and Eagen invite, collaborate and allow unique ‘other’ sounds to inform the bands overall aesthetic. The tunes are, in this interesting way, imbued with characterization that defies specific genre adherence. The sound ends up being a homage to rock itself, while also being an exciting potential contributor. Brought in for this purpose to the final recording of Johnny on the Spot are Mick Lykens on lead guitar, Eric Bee on guitar and Kevin Maurer on brass.
In terms of influence, I can’t begin to list all that I hear here. Reference has been made in other reviews to The Black Crowes, Thin Lizzy and Alice Cooper, all of which I agree with. There are dabs of everything, painted over blues roots that can sound at times like they’ve had a splash of the Yves Klien unique blue colonization. Everything is made their own. There are moments where I can hear a Liverpool-esque ode to Brit rock, standing hand in hand with the post-punk heated strum and relentless wit of the ironic drums. Then there are moments of folk, post folk, pre folk – even Simon and Garfunkel – pretty much everything is reverberating around to come out with a surprisingly clear crisp exuberant joyride of inspired songs that keep the listener enthralled through the six-track offering.
The EP starts with Hooker A (track is above) which gives you a good idea of the influence comments as well as the nice steady paced intro of what to expected from the band. Its a fun little ditty that grew on me the more I listened, resulting in my singing an ode to “my own” hooker around my home. Track Two Tom Bomadil is faster and more intricate and informed by some stunning guitar work. Tracks move through moments of experimentation and variation till track five, Life Fast Wheel that spins in a catchy 50’s infused fun bag of sounds that moves vocalization to the fore. Some of the tracks are light and homage laden, and others dare to get a little braver flirting with elements not used to being peeled from the same instrument in a rock session.
All in all, Johnny On The Spot is a strong debut. My one “unsure” is my own hearing of some Beach Boys influence (toward the end of Life Fast Wheel particularly – although the proggy guitar work made me happy) and I am not “into” Beach Boys influence at all – for various reasons I won’t go into here. Fortunately for Steelesque, I’m pretty much the only person in the world who holds these sentiments, so I’m sure it won’t be a problem for them. Take a bit of a listen – Its a nice outfit. If they keep it all going and get into something chunkier in an album, we’re in for a treat in the long term with this band.