Release date [June 2014]
Being the son of a folk musician and Catholic lay man preacher, former Kila bass player Brian Hogan’s rootsy band name has both a literal meaning and solid grounding.
‘10 Stories tall’ is his second solo album and it’s full of bluesy antecedents, a contemporary LA production, and several nods in the direction of mid-period David Bowie. It’s also full of guitar driven bluster and a nascent songwriting style on an album in search of its own identity.
Produced by Warren Huart, Brian’s voice is frequently buried deep in the mix, and part of an imposing wall of sound.
Things start of promisingly with ‘Jericho’ – all jangling guitars, a throbbing bass and a booming chorus – and Brian revels on the nicely ragged, guitar driven single ‘Come On’. The sledgehammer riffs and waltz like carousel of ‘Angel’ pushes the stylistic envelope to the edge of the table, but then there’s a change of pace as Brian slips into a ‘Diamond Dogs’ Bowie mode, on ‘Johnny’s Alright’. It’s a sweeping arrangement with an essential sense of urgency and a poppy resolution, as his voice is significantly mixed back in the chorus.
Brian extends his Bowie fascination on ‘Weeping World’, all whispered phrasing, buzz guitar and an ascending angst ridden vocal that leads into the hook.
Having moved from roots rock to Bowie, he completes his musical jigsaw with a brush stroked, pedal steel and celeste inflected ballad ‘Unbroken’.
Arguably the best track on the album, it’s a beautifully wrought song that gives the album a pause for breathe. He’s still in Bowie mode, but it’s a heartfelt song that allows him to finally stamp his own mark on the album. And as if buoyed by that success he opts for the ebow generated ethereal ‘Hands A Bleedin’, notable for its spoken word vocal and atmospheric bv’s.
‘Lead’ is an unreconstructed rocker that is well sequenced and brings the album back to its guitar driven origins, while the subtle groove of ‘Another Day’ envelops you with its warm production, mesmerising drone like guitar and Brian’s harmony vocals with bassist Tanja Callaghan.
There’s more echoes of Bowie on ‘Sophie’s Song’, an acoustic ballad featuring Phil Allen’s nuanced lap steel, and he explores a rockier edge on ‘Not The Only One’, but by the time of ‘Somebody Down’ it all starts to sounds a bit formulaic, right down to the micro pause before the hook.
That said, ‘10 Stories Tall’ is a decent album roots rock album with enough deep grooves, chiselled riffs and telegraphed hooks to make its mark. ***
Review by Pete Feenstra
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