Review of Sweet Fix’s latest album Golden Age.
Sweet Fix is comprised of Tommy Walker/Lead vocals, Ivan Anderson/Guitars, Marco Santini/Drums, Bill Sapanaro/Bass, and Jeff Manian/Keys, Synth, backing vocals,
Sweet Fix’s latest album is in my possession, and it’s apparent that the party is officially on. Although, for me, it’s a party of one. Yeah, just me sitting at my desk wearing my Sony headphones that I used every night when I was on the air as a rock radio DJ. That was before I became an astronaut and after I was a sanitation engineer. One major problem though, the disk drive on my computer is out of commission, I have no way of listening to the CD in the background as I write this. I don’t own a CD player. You’d think with all this professional experience that I’d figure out how to listen to rig something up with lasers Real Genius style to get it to play, but, shit, if it’s not in my iTunes I almost forgot what to do with it.
The Yoda in my life isn’t, well, Yoda, it’s Clark Griswold, and as he once so eloquently stated in 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation, “Nothing worthwhile is easy, Ellen, we know that.” As such, getting to actually listen to Sweet Fix’s Golden Age wasn’t as simple as you would think.
With the disc in my hands I felt like the ape in 2001: A Space Odyssey discovering bones from a rotted carcass for the first time. Before completely losing all brain functionality and smashing the disc into my desk numerous times, I was overcome with a brilliant idea.
About an hour ago the thought came to me that I think I might still have my old Discman. This was the same Discman that I had to connect in my car during high school because I’m so old that I owned a car that didn’t have a CD player, let alone Sirius or an iPod connection (Neither Sirius or iPods existed back then, so shush). I was going through old electronics and cell phones I had in my closet the other night to put on Instagram for shits and I could’ve sworn I saw my trusty old Discman. There may actually be people young enough reading this who legitimately don’t know what that is, so for them, it’s a portable CD player that is a little bit bigger than the size of an actual CD. It’s hard to believe that CDs are feeling as ancient as records are, and if anything, records have actually risen again to be more relevant than CDs, at least in my geeky circles. I don’t buy CDs often, unless they’re impulse purchases at Wal-Mart like The Jackson Five’s Five Greatest Hits. I don’t think that exists, but it probably will soon if it doesn’t already.
YES! I found it, I repeat, I found it! It’s the Discman! Damn thing still works! I’m popping in the CD right now, but before I hit play, let me ramble on a bit more.
One thing is for sure, the Golden Age of music had nothing to do with CDs. Regardless, the title, Golden Age, is still appropriate. It’s obvious that the band arrived at this name for a reason. Dictionary.com states that Golden Age refers to “the most flourishing period…” in the bands case, it’s their most immense sounding and most passionate effort yet.
Golden age means different things to different people. Does it change and update as years pass? For instance, lots of people consider the ’80s Hulkamania era the Golden Age of professional wrestling, but what about the Bruno Sammartino era? Generally, there are widely agreed upon Golden Ages. Was the MEGO craze in the ’70s more impactful than Kenner’s Star Wars Toys of the late ’70s and throughout the ’80s? This is a lame journalistic thing to write, but it’s required: Golden Age is Sweet Fix’s Golden Age.
Rooted in New York and Northern New Jersey, I first heard about Sweet Fix four or five years ago.
I checked them out live and was impressed with a couple of EPs they released, but my main gripe was that they barely ever played in Jersey. Reason for that is, there’s basically no music scene here in New Jersey, let alone a rock scene. Since we are the sports bar capital of the world, how could there be? We have a couple of clubs here and there that feature bands, and we have the Starland Ballroom, but there’s no actual scene. Fortunately this is where the Internet comes in. Sweet Fix has all their music available on iTunes and for sale on their website and you can watch their performances on YouTube. Golden Age of the Internet perhaps? Ever since their inception, they’ve been moving full speed ahead, sculpting their sound and their look throughout, but it wasn’t until I saw their live show that I got the full effect of their unique approach.
Sweet Fix, photo by Janine Cheng
If you’re not familiar with Sweet Fix, their sound incorporates a lot of familiar influences. Upon first listen, you’ll notice their retro sounding hard rock with power pop sheen. My ears also make out inspiration and elements from bands like Queen, The Cars, The Killers, Marvelous 3, ELO, Van Halen, Weezer, The Darkness, all drizzled with a sweet electronic New Wave topping and a hairband flair for the dramatics. I suggest you give them a few listens and you’ll begin to discover all these subtle nuances like I did.
Let me take you on a track by track tour of Golden Age:
1. The album kicks into overdrive with “Showtime,” which builds into a BIG arena rock song. It’s best experienced by closing your eyes and imagining a packed club in New York City. I can almost feel the heat from the spotlights above the stage. The hypnotizing beat and crunchy guitar intro ascends at the command of singer Tommy Walker’s fluid vocals into a colossal Queen style chorus. Once kicked in, we’re riding a wild mouse roller coaster, taking bumps into the harsh turns, but just before banging into a corner, the sound softens and I feel like my cart is made of memory foam. Meanwhile, the layered guitar sounds in the background become a lost frequency desperately trying to get tuned in.
2. “I Think You Love Me” casts doubt on a girl who is trying to play it off like she’s no longer interested in the guy, but the dude is confident and knows differently. There’s an excitement knowing that it’s not over between them – there’s still feelings there as much as she denies it. Sporting an energetic, driving beat, Beach Boys-style background harmonies, and lyrics pouring with refined cockiness, this one is totally ripe for a music video (think Golden Age of MTV). I could see some hottie playing hard to get with Tommy Walker belting the lyrics at a rooftop party in New York City while the rest of the band is rocking out somewhere on the Hudson River just before night falls. Keep an ear out for an awesome dueling guitar shred, one guitar is swirling and full of effect while the other is a killer ’80s style rock solo.
3. “Do You Want It?” yes indeed, power pop and retro rock fans will certainly want it. This is some intricately crafted pop saturated with a delicious glaze of space age sounds and topped with a funky rock beat. Is that a theremin I hear? This track gets me all charged up. You can see the band perform it live at Six Flags Great Adventure here in New Jersey from back in 2012 below.
4. “Sometimes It’s All Too Much” highlights the immense production of the album. Sunny ’70s pop rock morphs into an arena rock anthem. This track will most likely prompt a few lighters to ignite in the crowd. The electronic elements from Jeff Manian are a special ingredient.
5. Next up is “True True Love” written by guitarist Ivan Anderson. Love songs are never my thing, but this is hands down the greatest song on the album. No exaggeration, it’s a superbly formulated throwback to the latter day crooner style of love songs. Feels like Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love” had a one night stand with Extreme’s “More Than Words,” while the Beatles listened and nodded in approval. Lush harmonies and calm beautiful guitar work make this a standout. In the end, it floats back into space, or as I like to refer to it, the “Moving in Stereo Effect.”
6. Picking up the pace is “Bad 4 U.” The early Sambora-style intro sets the stage for this infectious head bopping rocker. “Now that I’ve got your attention, you’re my main attraction” sings Tommy Walker. That lyric makes total sense following the previous heartfelt love song. This is Tommy Walker’s best vocal performance since his range is on display as well as his Butch Walker influence. This is straight up hard melodic rock at its best, complete with Ivan’s sick guitar solo. This is Sweet Fix’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.”
7. Marco leads us in with a “Living after Midnight” style drum intro on “The Last Night of Our Lives” This tremendously chilled out rocker is Chicago on Ecstasy in Space. Puts me in a good mood which is probably exactly what they intended it to do. Possibly my favorite track, but I haven’t officially made up my mind yet.
8. Fitting that “This Aint Over” ushers this mammoth CD into the home stretch. The pulsing beat makes me feel like I was playing Super Mario Brothers and Mario jumped down a pipe into a secret Jimmy Eat World stage. The freaking vocal harmonies! I’ll say it right now, no matter how much I despise the show Glee, they need to do an entire episode with songs from this album. As Billy Joe from Green Day said in This is 40: “You got a song on Glee? That’s killer, man. That’s so much money, that’s good for all of us.” Not sure if they used a keytar here, but it sure sounds like it, and more of those awesome Beach Boys style background vocals are always welcome.
9. Yes, I’m really about to write this, and I’m actually not drunk or wasted in any way shape or form: The quintessential celestial instrumental that sends it all home is “Golden Age.” It sounds like guitarist Ivan Anderson birthed this while on his last vacation…on Saturn. The ethereal mood transported me into the another galaxy as I float amongst the stars. The sounds created sparkles and moved back and forth through my brain on a conveyor belt. It was either that or KITT’s red LCD display is trying to tell me something telepathically.
Sweet Fix’s badass logo – Skull Pez!
As with many independent bands there’s often a distinct improvement from their early EPs and albums, but in this case, their previous efforts Sparks in the Dark, and FM Radio/Make a Move sound just as solid, but Golden Age is sprinkled with a dash of pop rocks and more synth, creating a hybrid that Ivan the guitarist refers to as “Cyber Rock.”
What I appreciate most about Sweet Fix is that they pull from various different genres and generations of music. Ironically, their own sweet fix isn’t for candy, it’s for the diverse cross section of tunes that help to create their musical mutation which resides far off in Candy Land where the band plays on top of the Gumdrop Mountain. It sounds preposterous, but they’ve somehow combined pop, new wave, glam, modern and classic rock into one concise album. Clocking in at under 30 minutes, it’s fast paced, memorable, and pretty f*cking epic thanks to the bands creativity and the outstanding production from Geoff Stanfield.
It’s been a while since the days when fun party rock reigned. I miss the days of over the top antics, colorful clothes, hot girls on stage, and David Lee Roth doing splits in the air. Mainstream music is a bore. If you can recall the days blasting music in the car with your friends singing at the top of your lungs and when air guitaring at a friends house made you feel awesome and want to get a little crazy, then you know it’s high time to rock out like that again. Golden Age will help you do just that. Find your old disc man, get your headphones, and escape to a higher plane of existence, and listen to Sweet Fix revitalize rock music.
With their enhanced sound, SWEET FIX is a band to catch in concert. Their bombastic and flashy live show is a spectacle and it’s worth your time to check them out. See them at The Studio in Webster Hall in NYC tonight (2/1/14) for their first show of the year with more shows to be announced soon!
You can pick up Golden Age on iTunes and BandCamp