Come Down Easy
Park Police Has Good Times To Make Music To Have Good Times To
Local trio Park Police named its debut CD, Ranchero, after the 1960s half-car, half-pickup vehicle. And the 10 songs on it do an excellent job of making you feel as if you’re sitting in the back of one on the way to the shore for beers. The music is sunny and upbeat without being cloying or unintelligent, pretty much like the friendly, easygoing guys who make it.
Ranchero’s first track, “Mission Song,” serves as just that, a statement of the band’s history and goals: “Ten years and pocket change, we’ve been tryin’ to rearrange,” vocalist/guitarist Pat Wescott sings over a driving riff and propulsive rhythm section. “Had a choice for another band, so we could find us a place to stand.”
“We’ve been playing together for 11 years,” Wescott says, sipping pints of beer in a Mount Vernon bar. “There have been various iterations, but this is the first time we’ve done [a] trio. We wanted to play more of a straight-ahead rock sound.”
Wescott, 33, bassist Eric Bloodsworth, 32, and drummer Bruno Anderson, 36, appeared together previously in the local outfit Jook, which was more of a funk combo, with keyboardist Mick Schauer. Jook was around until 1997 and had a short reunion in 2001. All three members of Park Police have done time in other bands—Wescott, for example, spent some time with the Slow Jets and Mofofunka.
“We wanted to focus more on the songs,” Bloodsworth says of Park Police’s formation. “They aren’t all solos. It’s less technical and more about being straightforward rock ’n’ roll. There’s no shredding.”
“We keep the shredding to a minimum,” Anderson deadpans.
Many of Ranchero’s songs involve transit, movement, and spending time in cars. “Next Gear” opens with guitar strains that speed by like signposts on U.S. 50, and Wescott sings about escaping everyday doldrums and heading to brighter shores. Anderson keeps time with a finely tuned motor of snare rolls and high hats, while Bloodsworth’s energetic bass lines fuel the illusion of motion. More than a few of the song titles reference landmarks visible from Baltimore’s commuter lanes: “Shot Tower,” “Tunnel.” Both are familiar sights to Wescott, who recently moved from Baltimore to Severna Park in order to reduce his commute time to his Eastern Shore job as the resident IT guy at Paul Reed Smith Guitars. Anderson and Bloodsworth work in the IT industry as well.
“My favorite time to listen to music is in the car,” Wescott says. “I’d like to think that this record is a good driving record. It doesn’t really slow down too much at any point. It’s definitely more on the fun side, even though everything we are talking about isn’t necessarily fun. ‘Nationwide,’ for instance, sounds like it could be a party song, but it’s actually a political song expressing frustration at the choices we have.”
Just don’t assume Park Police is a “message” band. Its rock is hook-laden but doesn’t pander merely to brainless pop, catchy without being vacant. Surging changes start and stop midsong without detracting from tune’s momentum. And while the songwriting is crafty and witty, above all Park Police is loose and fun. It’s obvious that the band enjoys itself as the tracks tick by.
“We’ve all played in so many other bands for so long,” Anderson says. “It’s just obvious to us that we work and play well together. We’re actually friends.”
All three admit that other people have likened Park Police to Joe Jackson’s early work. And Ranchero does possess a definite resemblance to Jackson’s Look Sharp! and I’m the Man—lighthearted but not goofy.
“It’s funny,” Anderson says. “We’ve heard this from a lot of friends, but none of us owns any Joe Jackson.”
“I’m afraid to buy one,” Wescott adds, “and make too hard a comparison despite enjoying what I’ve heard.”
Such is the relaxed attitude of Park Police; the music isn’t the only thing loose about these three. Everything is casual with them, and they routinely speak as a team, finishing each other’s thoughts and sentences. Ranchero itself is a self-released effort, and Park Police’s chief interest is touring and traveling.
“We haven’t determined a real group goal,” Bloodsworth says with a smirk.
“Our main goal,” Anderson jokes, “is to own Audi RS4s.”
In other words, all three have lives outside of the band. Wescott and Bloodsworth are recently married, Bloodsworth with a young daughter. Park Police practices at Wescott’s home regularly, but not at a grueling pace.
“One night a week practice is total joy,” Anderson says.
“There’s no ego,” Wescott says. “We’re still developing a sound as we go, even though we’re just a three piece. There’s no one to hide behind when it’s just the three of us.”
In the end, Ranchero is a reflection of the band’s collective affability. These guys make buddy rock: Music to listen to with your friends as you motor away on a summer Saturday. They make music that wouldn’t be out of place in a beer commercial and they do it without coming off like brohammers in the process—not an easy feat these days.