“We're making pop music the way it should be made,” lead singer and songwriter Pat Kearns says casually as he returns to the board to mix “Siouxsie Please Come Home”, the premier track off Serenades and Hand Grenades, the brand new 12 song LP from Blue Skies For Black Hearts. It will be released May 20, 2008.
This, the band’s fourth full-length release, began with mudding sheetrock, painting walls and hanging baffles, turning the back rooms of local guitar shop, Centaur Guitar, into PermaPress Recordings, a modern-day Brill Building and Kearns’ new studio. The paint on the walls had barely begun to dry when Kearns, bassist Kelly Simmons, lead guitarist Michael Lewis and drummer Paul Noel began clocking in nightly, working up arrangements to songs that Kearns had often written earlier the same day. Within two hours of a song's introduction, it was hashed out, rehearsed and basic tracked.
With the advent of digital, today's artists frequently pile their computers with hundreds of tracks and takes, hoping time, reflection and deft editing will produce a masterpiece. Blue Skies, while embracing the functional advantages of modern recording technology, self imposed many of the limitations that fueled the creativity of rock and roll for the last half century. Decisions were made on the spot, focused primarily on feel and melody. Instruments were recorded live with ambiance and real plate reverb instead of relying on digital plug-ins later. Harmonies were worked out around the piano, moments before the entire band gathered around a single, tube microphone to sing the takes together. Nothing was ever added to tracks that needed to be “worked out later in the mix” - a common method of the digital generation. From the first time this record spins, you will feel the same intimacy and attraction that fans have longed for since the Brits invaded America (both times), Stiff Records scoured the pubs for talent and Creation Records saved rock and roll.
That album opener, “Siouxsie Please Come Home,” is a contemporary love story that could only occur in the new millennium. Through melody and words, Kearns paints a picture of a lovelorn composer whose girl has been sent off to war while he remains at home, writing heartbroken love songs while surrounded by her boxed possessions.
“Ambition” weighs integrity against success, an age old question that has become particularly complex and poignant in today’s music industry. It features a horn arrangement reminiscent of those heard on the great southern soul recordings of the 60s and '70s, while also belying the band’s obvious adoration of Costello and even Badfinger.
“Someday There Will Be Better Days” is an optimistic look at the frivolity of divorce, taking a dark, comedic view on exes waging war through their lawyers, and featuring a full-blown string arrangement that would make even Phil Spector turn green.
Each of the 12 tracks of Serenades and Hand Grenades is another piece, another story, another facet, of what music has been missing lately. Don’t you miss it, too.
Serenades and Hand Grenades - Release Date: May 20th, 2008