There has been a noticeably dramatic improvement in overall sound quality and production value of Milwaukee independent album releases over the past few years. And while a lot of the credit goes rightfully toward the emergence of visionary local producers like Justin Perkins and Shane Hochstetler, the wealth has been spread around to other area studios and even home recordings as well. The quality of the former is on full display on Comfort Kills
, the debut EP by the band Overtalk.
Recorded at JTW Recording Studio in Hubertus, Comfort Kills is a tight, professional album meant to be blasted through a pair of great speakers. Right out of the gates, "I Wanna Break Your Heart" leads off the effort with a pulse-pounding drum tone and singer/guitarist Rob Garekis' powerfully clean vocals cutting beautifully through the mix. The band has obviously gone to great lengths to produce a solid collection of performances here. And though the production at times can come across as a bit too polished, it does give the album a refreshingly confident sound throughout.
"Take Two" follows with a free-swinging, almost country-tinged rock vibe that gushes with attitude and intensity. And though there is certainly nothing new about this style, Garekis forces the issue by lunging forward at times with an almost Brett Scallions-type growl. The late '90s/early '00s alternative influence is palpable throughout the EP, though to be fair, it's not necessarily over-the-top. And while the overdriven guitars, angst-ridden vocals and bombastic production evoke bands like Fuel and Injected, Overtalk does manage to carve its own stylistic groove as the album progresses, varying from pop-punk exuberance to self-assured rock 'n' roll.
Overtalk is at its best when it strays a bit from the formulaic alternative rock blueprint and indulges in the members' obvious musical chops, like the song "Blacker Above You." Chock full of tempo changes, slow builds and even time signature variations, this song turns loose the solid guitar work of Garekis along with the instrumental talents of bassist Augie Menos and drummer Travis Smith. One can almost visualize the crowd at a dingy rock club going absolutely crazy as the band joyously rips through the track live.
"Staytimatum" and "Airlocked" confidently close out the EP. These tracks solidify the overall impression of an effort that isn't necessarily blazing any new artistic ground, but it doesn't really need to. There is always a place in every music fan's heart for a good melody and a catchy hook, two things that this EP has in spades. There is a refreshing honesty to an album that disposes of its pretensions at the door and forges on simply because (gasp) the members enjoy writing and playing music. For as a whole there's nothing on this EP that couldn't have been found on any alternative rock radio station over the past two decades. But in the end, maybe that's a good thing.
Hard copies of Comfort Kills
will be available in October, but you can hear the tracks for yourself here