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Flabberghaster | Live Like Lightning

album review by John Powell

Flabberghaster | Live Like Lightning

At some strange point, jam bands lost their momentum, and while they still have their place- and arguably always will- it seems more bands are reaching into electronica and hipster synths, sewing them into their extended grooves. Flabberghaster doesn’t seem concerned with this new wave, and have kept things old school, sounding much like The Grateful Dead and Tea Leaf Green, a funkier version of blues, a rockier version of folk. Slap bass, guitar solos, interspersed horns, hand claps, and singalongs abound alongside solos, breakdowns, and grooves aplenty on Live Like Lightning, a self-produced lovable album by the five-piece coming out of Southern Vermont.

Like their jam band counterparts Phish, Flabberghaster has a love of the weird (“Belly Dancer From Mars”), the stoner (“Up high”), and the atmospheric (“Space Chase”). The band totally succeeds musically. Their compositions are tight, forward moving, and original, while their lyrics, sung with near-monotone coolness by Evan Lincoln, bridge the wonderful and the rehashed.

Take “Shake it up/you only live once,” on the title track. The song starts with a composed layering of guitars, drooping bass, and restrained drums. From the first second of the song you can tell it’s going to build into something extraordinary. When things kick into gear, clearly marked by Jimmy Caltrider’s bass digging tracks and Tucker Cory laying on a sick guitar solo, the band falls away into blissful jam-rock, but the lyrics, “It starts with you and it comes back around to you,” aren’t much to punch your grandma out over.

Then the reggae groove starts and Evan’s voice lifts: “Sometimes the most frightening thing is the right thing,” he sings as the drums tighten and the band transforms. It’s beautiful. More than that, it’s what you hoped for and they deliver. And that one single lyric, repeated over building instrumentation, well, that’s what Flabberghaster does best.

A similar track is “The Machine”, Jimmy and Marcel Leclaire III on drums bring the band over Tarzan fusion with G. Love. Again, the lyrics aren’t too edited, or filtered. Evan raps now: “I’m not livin’ in Baghdad/I’m not in a war zone/with heavy artillery landing on my home.” Contrived more than heartfelt. Anyone remember String Cheese Incident’s “Jellyfish”? Yeah, it’s kind of like that.

Still, Flabberghaster is true to the artform, and it’s great to have a young group taking care of business in this way. The album sounds totally organic, not too polished, not compressed. Every song is about hope: “Take a look around/all you see is opportunity,” Evan sings on “Step Outside.”

Two tracks stand out. “Lemme Tell Ya” is Allman Brothers meets Dead. The lyrics are narrative and detailed. “I met you inside/you were putting on your makeup/trying to decide on your shoes.” These lyrics go much farther than the general over-thoughts cascading these dreamy-eyed rockers.

“Green Mountains” is a shout out to Vermont, the boys’ home state. It’s a lovely song sung by mountain men. “We don’t need to take from you/because we have so much to give,” it goes over swirly, whirly musicianship.

Not only recommended for the folk rock lovers, but the purists as well, Live Like Lightning is a wonderfully adaptable album that isn’t original in the best way. It pays homage to the greats and takes up the mantle. If we’re lucky, we’ll be seeing more of Flabberghaster.

Bottom line: Each track has a solo, some pretty lyrics, a jam, and a sense of hippie-ness we all can sink our teeth into.


 

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