NOW and again
by sam pfeifle, portland phoenix, 06.24.04
Mitch Alden claims he
didn’t plan it this way, but he’s evincing damn fine timing this week with the
release of his second full-length as Now Is Now, Days of Summer. Not only does
the title, along with the sunflower-soaked cover, play perfectly on our
desperate need to be convinced that Maine does indeed have a summer, but the
songs on the disc are as bright and airy as last Sunday’s weather.
if his songwriting is any indication, is a pretty happy, upbeat guy. And fairly
deep-thinking. So there’s a lot of stuff here like "And sunshine will break on
through/ Daylight will rescue" or "Watch the world go by, start your life now/
Yesterday, tomorrow, what are you waiting for." He’s got a lot of motivational
speaker in him.
On his debut effort, Transitions, he wasn’t quite able to
channel all this positivity into a singular vision, but now that he’s been with
drummer Neil Carroll and bassist Dan Paul for a few years, this album feels
cohesive and meaningful. It’s a chance for Alden to put on display his classic
pop songwriting, akin to the Frotus Caper in many ways, a mix of up-beat singles
and introspective ballads.
Where he differs from the pop of the Caper,
though, is that rather than borrow from the ’60s pop of the Beach Boys, Monkees,
and Beatles, he takes more from the late-’80s pop of melodic Rush or Live. Or
even 1997’s Cornershop hit, "Brimful of Asha" — you know, the one that goes,
bunna-chicka, bunna-chicka, "forty-five." So opens the title track, third on the
disc. The chorus of "days of summer last much longer with you" is up to the
challenge in its catchiness, each word enunciated and emoted for full rock-star
On "Paintbox," Alden delivers upbeat, wicka-wicka guitars,
previewing a funk number like you might hear Sly-Chi pen, with a bass line of
’80s Rick Springfield, but then there’s a quick switch to Presto-era Rush —
except Alden isn’t Geddy Lee’s vocal equal (especially on soft numbers, like
"Watch the World," Alden can be out of tune), nor Alex Lifeson’s guitar equal,
but who is?
I particularly like the aggressive finish to this one, around
the 4:30 mark, with the repetition of "my little girl, she went away/ she went
away when she was so young." In general, Now Is Now succeed more on the rockers
than the ballads. The finisher, for instance, "Golden Leaves," is too
reminiscent of the Cowboy Junkies’ "Misguided Angel," and the comparisons to
Margo Timmins, though not fair, can’t be helped.
That said, Days of
Summer is a significant upgrade on the already strong Transitions, and Now Is
Now’s many ardent fans certainly won’t be disappointed.
sam pfeifle is a staff writer for the portland