Basics: Billed as "funk-based blues and straight-ahead rock n' roll," Third and Maryland (TAM) play more blues than rock on their first full-length. The majority of the album is stripped-down, mellow rock with a few upbeat tracks bookending everything. This all leads to an unfortunately disjointed effort that feels more like their previously YAFI-reviewed three-song EP with six tracks of filler thrown in for good measure.
Every band likes to have fun with their self-written (I assume) bios on MySpace and Facebook. However, citing Charlie Sheen and "winning" as both influences and bands they like, TAM have taken things to a ridiculously stupid level. Charlie Sheen is an ass. It's not funny anymore. Actually, it was never funny.
Best Song: Album opener "Ain't About You" is a straight-forward rock song that comes with very little to no expectations -- it is the first song on the album, after all, and I've never heard TAM's music. Once over the initial shock, if you will, of Michael Blau's gruff, Creed-esque/Puddle of Mudd-y singing style, "Ain't About You" coalesces into a tidy litte rock song. On an album where the band perhaps tries to do much/have some sort of greater effect on the world, "Ain't About You" is a welcome change of pace.
Worst Song: The first and second songs on the album are, as the band calls it, "straight-forward rock." The third through seventh songs, then, are conversely mellow and heartfelt. There's a great momentum accrued through those first two songs that comes to a halt -- and stays there -- for the next five songs. "In Just Three Days" has some of the album's worst vocals and it's most ham-handed guitar solo, combining for a confusingly odd -- albeit disjointed -- song. I can't help but hear lead singer Michael Blau as doing an impression of a stodgy, elderly Scottish man when he sings "Your soul is rising" at the 53-second mark.
Suggestions: The font on the inside cover of the CD is borderline illegible. I don't know who gave the green-light on that decision, yet here I am complaining about a font for the second week in a row. If you are going to take the time to put together and release an album, make sure it looks as professional as possible. I know there are a lot of neat, kooky fonts out there, but resist the temptation -- pick a normal font that people don't have to strain to read.
For some reason, the Wednesday CD came with 18 tracks -- an odd feature for an album billed as having only nine songs. Apparently there were two versions of the same album on the CD, the first version sounding much better than the latter. I don't know if the band meant to do that as some kind of bonus or what have you, but it sure didn't help the overall "professional" appearance of the album. It came off as some kind of really big mistake on the band's behalf.
If you're a musician from the Phoenix metro area and would like to have your music reviewed in You Asked For It (our first-come, first-served and often harsh record review column) please send it in an envelope marked "YAFI" to:
Michael Lopez You Asked For It c/o Phoenix New Times 1201 E. Jefferson Street Phoenix, AZ 85034