A chance meeting between John Petkovic (Cobra Verde, Sweet Apple, Guided By Voices, Death Of Samantha) and Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney at the Akron Art Museum back in 1999 planted the seed for this project. The story goes, Carney came up to Petkovic and told him he was the nephew of multi-instrumentalist Ralph Carney (who passed in 2017), who had recorded with Cobra Verde. The two musicians, who are both native sons of Akron, but no longer live there, hit it off. Years later their friendship blossomed into this album.
Petkovic handles all the vocals and guitars, while Carney naturally plays drums, but also adds layers of synths to the proceedings to create a sound that Petkovic labels “psychedelic trash.” To these ears, it sounds like a space-age Cobra Verde (one of Petkovic’s long-running bands) with incessant rockers such as “Yesterday Girls,” “Bad Cells,” and “Want You To Want You” rounded out with more introspective numbers such as the album opener, “Just Landed,” “(Falling Into The Arms Of A) Refugee,” “Long Goodbye” and album closer, “Disappearing.”
As always, Petkovic’s lyrics have many layers. While on the surface, many songs could be about relationships among people, they’re also about the city of Akron itself and these two musicians’ relationship with it. For example, “Just Landed” posits a visitor, alien or otherwise, arriving in a city and finding out that much has changed since their last visit. Petkovic was born in Akron, but he grew up in Cleveland, so this could be about his return after many years. (Carney now lives in Nashville.)
“Disappearing” could be about a relationship gone bad, such as when Petkovic intones “I’m losing you,” but it could also be about Akron, since a lot of its promise has been reduced to a ghostly, haunted present. The city as he knows it is disappearing.
Akron, Ohio is an exciting debut, which showcases the multifaceted talents of both its well-known participants. They take parts of current bands and forge a wholly fresh sound. It’s also an ode to a damaged but proud city and the people who live there. Don’t miss out on it.