My local record store is also host to the occasional concert. About fifty people fit comfortably into the space otherwise occupied by vinyl, CDs, music paraphernalia and chips and sodas. When the owner recently told me I just had to attend one of the upcoming shows because it was going to sell out, I decided to take the plunge, having never heard of either act. The price was right and it was a night out with music.
Best. Decision Ever.
Only it wasn’t the headliner which I was sold on. It was the opening act who, within two minutes, had convinced me that this is what rock and roll is supposed to be all about – perfect power pop gems full of muscle and finesse and performed by a band whose life seemed to depend on it. That was my introduction to The Anderson Council.
The band name itself is a clever witticism. Every progger worth his salt knows that Pink Floyd was named for blues singers Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Uh, do I need to go any further? That kind of nerdy fun is The Anderson Council’s calling card. Think of a throwback to the sophisticated pop songs of the Kinks and the Who liberally sprinkled with some Smithereens and you begin to get the idea. The brainchild of singer/guitarist Peter Horvath, this New Jersey band might just as well have crossed the ocean from England. Since forming in 1999, the band has released six albums. The latest, The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon, is as flawless a collection of psychedelic power pop that you will hear this year (or any other).
From the first notes of Tarot Toronto, the vocals are front and centre, weaving deliciously tight harmonies rivalled only by the interplay of the twin guitar attack. Even with its lyric about a potential air disaster, the song is relentlessly upbeat as Horvath sings: “Looking at the charts / Something in the stars and the tarot cards should be thrown away / What did magicians ever know anyway?”. The bridge is a mini psychedelic trip which makes the bookending frenetic energy of the song even more fun. It just gets better when Alone With You offers the one-two punch. A great lyric about being happy with your life partner, not just the things you do together, offers an adult perspective on relationships. Like the best of the late sixties pop charts, the melody is almost instantly hummable, as if you’re remembering a favourite song from your distant past. As if that were not enough of an introduction, The Anderson Council go for the hat trick with Million Miles A Day. A Creedence rhythm with a Byrds vocal approach, the song rocks as hard as concrete strengthened with rebar. Each song has some sort of twist, usually in the bridge or in the chord changes that makes each one a cut above.
Times on the Thames, with its beautiful melody, has one of the best vocals on the album, and that’s saying something considering how powerful and deft Horvath’s voice is throughout. While instrumentally this is guitarists Horvath and Michael Potenza’s show, producer Kurt Reil expands the sonic landscape with the addition of organ on this particular tune, enhancing the delivery just that much more. While each song is rooted in power pop, every song has its own distinctive character. What they share in common are the melody lines with enough muscle to use on a construction site and hooks strong enough to tow a battleship. When Horvath sings, “Picture this / Can you see / All the lives that we’ve lived while we’re searching / For what’s right in front of us” on Picture This, you hear and feel that this is a life that’s been lived in and through a few things. You believe it. If the Searchers collaborated with the early Who, they might have arrived at Give it Time. Jangly guitars and a strong vocal lead into a middle eight that somehow shouldn’t work, but still serves to draw you further in to the fun of the song. Beach Boys influences peek from behind Messes Up My Mind, a rollicking, rocking tune with astute lyrics about adulting.
Untrained Eyes brings a bit of rockabilly into the mix. The subtle steel guitar in the background breathes some air with its lilting texture, only for the song to light up like a bright ray of sun with its dual guitar harmonies. Drummer Scott Jones and bassist Simon Burke do such a fine job of holding down the bottom end that it’s easy to take them for granted, solid as they are from one song to the next. But songs such as Buying A House would not be the same without them. They anchor the song whose musings might seem trite on the surface, but once more the responsibilities and difficulties of being an adult come to the fore when Horvath asks “Is it dreaming / Is it planning / Well it’s all the same to me”. Still, looking at real estate and seeing the possibilities it houses makes for one of the happiest songs on the record.
The album closes with a near six-minute tune which is unique on the album. The slower tempo of Jump Right In features Mellotron flutes, guitar reverb and phase shifting to achieve its loose quality. Potenza’s lead guitar really stretches out on this one and uses several distinct tones to create the illusion of a guitar army. The song is so satisfying it’s over before you know it.
I’m still smacking my head for having missed out on The Anderson Council for so many years. Don’t make the same mistake – familiarise yourself with this fine band and their brand of rock and roll perfection as soon as you can. While you’re at it, check out their covers of the Kink’s Do You Remember Walter and the Who’s Mary Ann with the Shaky Hand from recent Jem Records tribute albums. There’s a reason nearly every album has landed them a spot as the coolest song in the world on Little Steven’s Underground Garage. Listen for yourself and find out why.
[You can read John Giordano’s interview with Peter Horvath HERE.]
01. Tarot Toronto (3.12)
02. Alone With You (2:50)
03. Million Miles A Day (3:48)
04. Times on the Thames (2:49)
05. Positive (3:26)
06. Picture This (2:56)
07. Give it Time (2:41)
08. Messes Up My Mind (3:02)
09. Untrained Eyes (2:56)
10. Sunday Afternoon (3:29)
11. Buying A House (1:50)
12. Jump Right In (5:46)
Total Time – 38:45
Steve Horvath – Vocals, Guitars
Simon Burke – Bass, Vocals
Michael Potenza – Guitars, Vocals
Scott Jones – Drums & Percussion
Kurt Reil – Keyboards, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Record Label: Jem Records
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 19th May2023