Southern and Baseline was the address where I had one of the best times of my life last November at the Hollywood Alley in Phoenix, AZ. But my little trek from New Jersey had nothing on the members of Marshan, who came to this 4th annual Stoner Hands of Doom festival all the way from Scotland to blow away those who were lucky enough to get there early to see them with their high-energy good times rock n roll -- and to drink many a Newcastle ale (in unison, I might add) and shots of whiskey. They had such a fabulous time at SHOD, they decided to name their new album after the address of the bar.
"Shake Yourself" the opening track of "Songs from Southern and Baseline" does the best job capturing the magic of the weekend. Good friends, good beers, good music, good times because we only have one life to live. It is also the best description of the band itself and their music. This is a hard review to write because I had such an emotional reaction to the album, I just want to endlessly gush about how good it is, how high it uplifts my spirit and puts me in a better place, aside from the great musicianship you’ll hear on here and how well these guys play off and with each other.
I wouldn’t be just blowing hot air to say that there is not a bad song on the album. In fact, I’d say that most songs here are beautiful feats of song-writing, with maturity and style and complicated arrangements to keep up your attention. A major example of this is the 9-minute divinely- (and a bit prog-) inspired "Roger, Heat the Plate" which has an intro that sounds a bit like a Who song, then builds into call-and-response spiritual verses with the piano playing in sync with the guitar (what a breath of fresh air). Driving guitar leads get thrown down until everything quiets down at the midpoint to change to a 70’s style repetitive chorus then an organ playing prominently up front with airy guitar riffs played that float into the ether.
Since I’ve been keeping this in my main rotation the past few weeks, the cachiness of many songs like "Shake Yourself", "Mind Dryer", and "She’s Gone" keep them perpetually stuck in my head. This is an album filled with high energy songs saturated with groove, good spirits, and soul. They also do the pretty, mellow acoustic ditties such as "Out of Sight" with Scott’s mouth harp playing adding more soul; there’s so much beauty in their songs you almost want to weep.
The double guitar courtesy of Graeme and Scott and bass onslaught from Kevin of chugging 70’s-style blues and boogie riffage give them a true jam band (but not noodley) sound, going one place to the next for the sake of the riff and where it will lead them. The complex songs filled with long, flowing powerful riffs (and many times a good measure of wah), and shifts in tempo that keep your head grooving and your ass shaking. Malky’s drumming is heavy and grooving, keeping up with all the changes without missing a beat, but he really shines the most on "Superbrick". I’d be remiss to not mention Dave Chang’s production; he really has a lot of insight into who Marshan are and what they’re capable of, and it shows by how well he’s produced their last 2 albums.
Graeme’s vocal style is soulful and sweet-sounding, whereas Scott’s is more punk rock attitude, so the contrast adds a lot of depth, especially when they utilize both singers as lead and back-up vocals. The background vocal arrangements are one of the things that make Marshan stand out far from the rest of the pack.
"Kings Thursday on the Friday Street" was a good debut album, filled with happy blues/boogie-rock tunes to cruise with on sunny days. But "Songs from Southern and Baseline" is GREAT; if there’s any justice in the world, a lucky label will pick up Marshan and this will become a benchmark album for the genre… and I haven’t even heard the mastered version yet!
Check this out if you like ROCK ‘N’ ROLL. I guess if I had to I could compare them to anyone from Blind Melon to Led Zeppelin. MARSHAN just plain Rocks!