J-Roddy Walston and the Business: Hail Mega Boys
J-Roddy Walston and the Business Hail Mega Boys (self-released) J-Roddy Walston and the Business-the Baltimore-via-Tennessee love children of Paul McCartney, ragtime, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Billy Joel, and Queen-take a huge leap forward with Hail Mega Boys, the band's first proper full-length and first release since 2005's LMNEP. Known for packing in the dancing crowds at the now-defunct Talking Head on the strength of frontman Walston's barroom screech and pounding gospel-revival piano, the band has upped the ante this time around by adding a rock emphasis to its retro sound, courtesy of guitarist Billy Gordon, whose accomplished shredding provides a good counterpoint to Walston's vaudevillian keyboard skills.
Standout track "Go for It" is a fight song in the classic sense, a rallying cry for anyone rethinking their life. "Nineteen Aught Four" is quite possibly the only song ever to name-check the "Great Baltimore Fire of 1904," as Walston sums up the desires of anyone who's ever blamed this city for their troubles by sweetly crooning "I'll burn you down, my Bal-ti-more." "Stop Rip and Roll" sounds a bit like Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" and proves once again that Walston is the local master of the shout-along chorus.
Hail Mega Boys isn't all good-time music, though. Maudlin ballad "Go Malachi" seems woefully out of place in this band's repertoire; though well-written and well-executed, it still sounds strange to hear guys this young singing about broken marriages and midlife crises. Still, it's a minor misstep on an album of classic, old-school rock 'n' roll. Though J-Roddy Walston and the Business aren't for everyone-their infectious, booty-shaking optimism is bound to annoy more than a few scowling indie kids-Walston's songwriting skills, vocal panache, and raw moxie continue to make him one of the most interesting talents in town.