If there was a Columbus Music Hall of Fame, Jon Chinn would be a first-ballot lock, honored for both his songwriting contributions (Pretty Mighty Mighty, The Killionaires, Jon Chinn & The 1803) and the production and recording work he did as one of the founders of Workbook Studio. It’s little wonder that everything Chinn has touched, whether it be fronting a band or sitting behind a recording console, shines with high production value and quality, readymade for shrink wrap and shelf space wherever fine albums and CDs are sold.
Though Pretty Mighty Mighty predated the emergence of emo rock, I often thought, as I watched the band perform at venues like Bernie’s, Little Brothers, and Skully’s, that the kids listening to The Promise Ring and Hey Mercedes could easily find a common ground in emotionally-charged music Pretty Mighty Mighty was performing. Not sure how a major label record deal never fell into the band’s lap, but their influence could be heard in bands that emerged on the High Street scene in the late ’90s/early ’00s.
2017 brings us the debut release by Chinn’s latest project, Manager, a band whose sound doesn’t stray too far from the musician’s previous efforts though, this many years later, the songs arrive with more urgency than ever before. With a new-ish supporting cast (Ron Hester – guitars, Lori Cantu – bass, John Dorcas – drums), Chinn’s guitar-rock recalls the glory days of the mid-90s when alternative rock ruled the world – between the music and the falsetto-style vocals, bands like Sugar, Guided By Voices and the Ass Ponys spring to mind. Though now based in New York City, the band members share common midwest roots and strong working class aesthetic – roll up the sleeves, plug in, rock out, sweat on stage and drink a few beers while doing it.
The albums kicks off with the appropriately-titled “Off to the Races”, setting the tone for the following 33-minutes of passionately-charged, straight up rock and roll. There’s some nifty guitar playing towards the end of the song – and throughout the album – that would have inspired a teenage me to stand in front of a mirror and play air guitar (um … a 45-year-old me may have done the same thing recently).
In an interesting twist “Electrical Camp” reminds me a lot of Miranda Sound, one of the bands that Chinn mentored and influenced while still a regular member of the Columbus music scene, and it’s probably my favorite song on the album with it’s anthemic qualities and reverent guitar playing.
For those of us now settled into careers, the lyrics of “Manager” resonate, whether you’re in a leadership position at work or not (“If the proper process was in fashion, we’d be out with our boys in the bar”, “The interns are wasted, the evidence is speaking”, “Though it’s not quite quitting time, everything that’s on my list is getting old”, “Who is the one that is to blame? I am, I am the manager”).
I don’t really think, come year end, I can include this on my list of favorite local releases even though a few members of the band called Columbus home for a number of years, though that’s okay – this is far more deserving of a spot on the non-location specific “Favorites of 2017” list. While it may play a ’90s nostalgia card, it’s also very timely and relevant and offers proof that guitar rock is not a dying genre.
Head over to Manager’s website to hear “Off to the Races”, “Party Service” and “Manager” and check out the Texacobra Records’s website to learn more about when you get pick this up on vinyl or as digital downloads.