CD REVIEW: The Service Industry - Calm Down
By: J.D. Stefan
The Service Industry
Calm Down is the 4th release from the Texas group The Service Industry. Led by singer Mike McCoy, The Service Industry also features Julie Lowery (vocals, percussion), Hunter Darby (vocals, bass), Andy Thomas (guitar, vocals), Robbie Araiza (guitar, mandolin) and Travis Garaffa (drums, vocals). Additional featured musicians include Jennings Crawford (guitar, piano), Jacob Schulze (keyboards, banjo), Jenny Smith (violin) and James Stevens (guitar). The album was produced, recorded and mixed by James Stevens at EAR in Austin, TX. Mastering was performed by Jim Wilson at Airshow Mastering in Boulder, CO. Most of the info on the band was found at their label’s site – Sauspop Records. The band’s own website is rather sparse on information as is the MySpace site. On a side note, Hunter Darby occasionally makes appearances with Meat Puppets and all band members seem to have their fair share of other bands they participate in outside of The Service Industry.
Calm Down opens up with a great pop-rock track called “Heart Repair”. As the album progresses it’s apparent that The Service Industry know how to work their guitar-driven sound and put some great, catchy melodies on top. The band proclaims that they meld the maxims of “don’t quit your day job”, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” and “write what you know” all together to create their poppy sound. All it takes is one listen to a song like “This Town Makes My Skin Crawl” to get a sense of the tongue-in-cheek humor and sarcasm that underscores the upbeat tracks. Although some of the guitar riffs are a bit derivative at times, this is a well-written and well-executed album with lots of catchy tracks. “Honey and Sprayed Hair” shows the vocal talents of Julie Lowery and add a nice contrast to McCoy’s vocals. “Windows” is a great stylistic change to a more stripped down acoustic genre. “Loudon Wainwright, AZ” is a clever track that runs a dialogue straight out of a live auction over the top of a great rock guitar track. When listening to the album for the first time you never know quite what to expect next but the overall sound is cohesive and it all ties together. The band made some good decisions in song placement by putting the more accessible material up front and then branching out more as the album continues. There’s some great playing on Calm Down, some great guitar sounds and a tight rhythm section holds it all together. The CD is well-packaged, not overdone. A simple 3-page foldout and some interesting images work well for a professional package.
There’s a lot to like about Calm Down. Catchy songs, some really good playing and production and a lot of fun and clever lyrics make this a great album. The Service Industry know their niche and know how to work it by creating songs that allow them to speak their mind while working in a strong power-pop rock box. The production on Calm Down is quite good. The instruments are recorded very well and there is a good balance to everything. There’s a lot of appeal in these tracks but sometimes they might want to reel things back in just a little bit when they opt to branch out. It would have been nice to hear more of Lowery’s vocals as a focus. While her voice is definitely present in handling harmony duties, I found myself wanting to hear one or two more tracks like “Honey and Sprayed Hair”. There are certainly some derivative guitar riffs that appear here and there – whether intentionally or not. There’s a dose of REM at times, Fountains of Wayne, Matthew Sweet and even one part that sounds like it was lifted directly off “Hell is for Children” by Pat Benatar. These minor things aside, The Service Industry has a great album with Calm Down.
The Service Industry should be quite happy with this album as should their fans. They showcase their clever songwriting, lyrics and vocals in an upbeat, guitar-driven presentation that’s fun to listen to. A few more tracks like “Heart Repair” and “Honey and Sprayed Hair” may have them considering leaving those day jobs after all. Seems they’ve already made the lemonade and are certainly writing what they know.
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