It’s fun to see a full band at the Icehouse -and Saturday night Cory Palmer brought a posse with him to release his latest album Heartache – guitars, basses, drums, three keyboards, a tambourine and just when I thought I’d counted them all, someone whipped out another instrument. It was a reunion of sorts. Palmer took some time away from music for happy reasons (family) and hard reasons (car accident and depression) but he has reconnected with his bandmates for the new work.
The band, talented with many members playing multiple instruments and with long stories of their own, includes Adrian Suarez (of Adam Meckler Orchestra and Vicious Vicious), Nick Tveitbakk (of These Modern Socks and from Pachyderm Studios), Jeff Marcovis (with Al Church and Tyte Jeff), Park Evans (of Fireball and Enormous Quartet), Katie Marshall (of Parts for All Makes and Katie Marshall Three-O), and Scott McVeigh (with Mark Mallman and of Speed’s The Name).
The new album and the show remind me of Chicago (the city), which to me means it’s funky and somehow reminds me of the 70s. The 70s connection might just be the conceptual album. Heartache plays like one long song – no breaks. Perhaps you could slice it into songs but there are themes are twist in and out, like an opera. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And the opera is the story of Palmer’s recent history. The sound is funky and poppy, the lyrics run dark but show a resilience that is catchy.
Palmer has an easy voice that is soothing and balances with the dark lyrics. There’s a great use of repetition and aural motifs in the music that bear out the sense of history of being in a dark place the idea of doing the same thing, expecting a difference answer but somehow the music does find a different answer, eventually. Marshall’s voice adds a dimension. The keyboards keep up the funk and the repetition. The advantage of three keyboards is effect of conflicting tunes in a small space – but not in a cacophonous way. In their raw honesty, the words can be hard to listen to – the music never is.