San Francisco’s The Campbell Apartment call themselves an indie rock group, but as their new album Curmudgeon goes to show, it’s not that easy to put this band into one genre box.
The line-up currently consists of Ari Vais on guitar and vocals, Kevin Frank on bass, and Jon Hand on drums, with the Vais led project existing for over a decade and involving musicians on both coasts.
As Vais said in our interview with him, “Curmudgeon was initially recorded song by song, and meant to be released as singles…with each song completely its own animal”, so this definitely is not a blatant concept album. All of the lyrical content is relatable though, and while it might not be one neat little story, it essentially covers the concept of life (albeit quite a depressing one): trudging through a corporate career, being stuck in a rut, love and family, and even the assassination of a fascist presidential candidate.
To quote Vais “the album is a dark little thing. Within the darkness, there is some humor”. Which sums up life in a nutshell really.
Musically the band are often compared to the likes of Ween and Pavement, and quite rightly so, but Curmudgeon – most likely due to the fact it was meant to be released as individual songs – sees the band take all the elements of indie rock they’ve mastered throughout the years, and combine them with elements of pop, classic/hard rock and even a pinch of country at times. Mellow acoustic guitars are expertly balanced with distorted rock riffage, and Vais’ vocals add an emotional and genuine feel to the songs.
The changes label Mint 400 made when they took the album on – removing compression and effects – were successful in creating an album that sounds raw and real, without sounding over-processed in the slightest.
Stand-out tracks include the simplistic yet powerful “I Know What I’ve Done”, telling an enthralling story of a person who has committed a presidential assassination and is paying the consequences, but they’re worth it. Emphasis is given to the strong lyrics/vocals, with a prominent thumping kick drum adding to the effect of this one. “Baby’s Wedding Day” is a more upbeat song, with adorable lyrics about his daughter’s wedding day, catchy hard rock guitars, and a run time of just 1:51, making it by far the shortest and very sweetest track on the album. “Burning Bridges” is another highlight of Curmudgeon, with grittier vocals, and elements of hard rock.
When you’ve been making music as long as Ari Vais has, you’re bound to have mastered the genre and then some. Curmudgeon is evidence that Vais and the rest of the band have plenty of knowledge in their noggins and tricks up their sleeves, and could turn their hand to pretty much any rock sub-genre.
Image courtesy of The Campbell Apartment