By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
On its first outing, Last to Show First to Go unloads a baker's dozen of kinder, gentler heartland rock & roll songs. Singer and guitarist Bredon Jones has a dreamy, languid way on the mic; he and his bandmates throw in some country signifiers from time to time, but thankfully Jones doesn't burden his voice with needless, hiccupping twang.
Short Cuts' lyrics can sometimes be a jumble of fleeting images and sharp bon mots, but every now and then Jones spits out a keeper. On the opening cut, "Smile," a simple, unadorned chorus cuts to the quick: "Smile and straighten your back / Do like they tell you from the magazine rack." Later in the record, "Running in the Rain" stands as an ideal synthesis of the band's influences. A muddy slide guitar breaks into circular arpeggios like a thumbnail sketch of The Joshua Tree's guitar palette, while a rat-a-tat snare drum and sonorous clarinet melody line give the right amount of set dressing. The next track, "No Heart," builds on that momentum with a catchy kiss-off complete with shouted group vocals and a particularly infectious chorus. This is a band that knows more than a few stick-in-your-head songwriting tricks, and it isn't afraid to use them.
At times the rhythm section could use some tightening. It seems like the band has one foot in jammy roots-rock and one foot in downtempo alt-country, and the four band members aren't always sure which leg to stand on. If Last to Show's interplay could use some wood-shedding, the album itself sounds great, thanks to the dependable engineering work of Sawhorse Studios' Jason McEntire; although Short Cuts doesn't have a wide range of dynamics, a warm, reverberant ambience covers its tracks like a well-loved blanket. The piano-based intro to "I Don't Wanna Be Known" in particular captures the twinkly elegance of an empty barroom. But with a debut album as promising and confident as Short Cuts, Last to Show First to Go won't be playing many empty rooms for much longer.
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