Rock music, music played with actual live instruments, is becoming scarce. We’re in an age where music can be made entirely on our laptops with no outside assistance. Electronic pop music dominates the charts, and sampling is becoming a more common tool for creating compositions. There is not much industry support for rock music anymore (outside of well-established acts), and if you so choose to you’ll have to make it on your own terms.
This is where a band like Three Cities comes in. Three Cities is a four piece rock band from Indiana that takes it influences from a variety of genres ranging from classic rock, blues, and progressive metal.
Their debut album, For the Price of One, begins with a sarcastic sing-along intro which brought a smile to my face- it has shades of Frank Zappa’s playfulness and the jovial nature of They Might Be Giants. A band that can inject humor deliberately has to be admired. There is a self-awareness here that sets the tone for some of the songs that follow- a sense that, while they’re giving it everything they’ve got, there’s a wink and a nudge. This is a risk, but after the first song “Time Will Tell” immediately comes, it hits you with its swirling keyboards, crunching guitar, pulsing drums, and Terel’s sailing vocals. It’s an expansive sound that is maintained for most of the duration of the album.
It’s all four members announcing: here we are, this is what we’re capable of. The interplay of all the instruments is very proficient, with David’s keyboard in particular elevating the song, combined with Anthony’s powerful drumming and Patrick’s chugging guitar. This is put to good use later, in particular the opening groove of “Runnin’ Into You”, which eventually becomes the backbone of the song. His playing in this song is reminiscent of Ray Manzarek’s, and sets the right structure for the other instruments to play off of it.
The song “Need” showcases Terel’s vocals with a solitary piano before Patrick comes in with a blistering solo. The melody gradually comes to a crescendo after a few minutes and it is one of the high points of the album. With such a climax, the artists have to earn it from the listener, but all four members take the time and space to allow the song to build and patiently grow and it pays off impressively.
“Contagio” is a short yet interesting song with lyrics about infections in which I detected traces of Faith No More, comparable to the relentless energy of Mike Patton due to an almost operatic tone. It is then followed by “Anthony’s Garage” – a fun, stomping melody that gets its simple message across very clearly that Anthony’s Garage is the place to be. The band keeps everything interesting with constant tempo changes and some slight (but not far reaching) genre hopping. The closer, “What’s Inside” begins with the album’s catchiest riff- a throwback to the anthemic classic rock era. It’s a rollicking, positive song where everything comes together with a singular vision of making the most ideal, celebratory closing track. This track would do wonders in a live setting, and is the defining song on this album.
On a technical level, they are excellent musicians with what seems to be a lot of rehearsal behind them. I would love to see these songs performed in a live setting because the instrumentals, especially, lends itself to an exciting show. I must admit, however, that the album loses focus on a few tracks (a couple in the middle run longer than it should) but hey, this is a debut album, and by their very nature they are flawed, otherwise where else is there to grow and develop. The lyrics are also a weak point of the album – “The Pessimist” in particular felt detached when it resorted to stock phrases and the composition did not help to lift the song.
It’s plainly visible that Three Cities is made up of talented players and are an inspired group of individuals. The album treads a variety of different styles, moods, oftentimes within the same song. I’d like to see them experiment more with uncommon time signatures and more personal lyrics because the potential is there. They display their skills here, and it is far preferable to the status quo of chuggy prog metal, with eclectic influences and a tendency to go pretty hard at times – something most of the genre tends to forget about.
Three Cities is:
Anthony Decker – Drums
David L Herring – Keyboards
Patrick Brown – Guitars
Terel Lynn – Vocals