The Flashpot Moments – s/t
Produced by Tim Cawley, Tom Polce, Hal Cragin, and Andy Pinkham, The Flashpot Moments’ recording debut is the realization of a long-deferred dream. It’s Cawley’s personal baby, an eleven song outing that he’s written and refined over considerable time, and the ultimate success of the project rests on his shoulders. Everything about this release says he’s up for the challenge. The songwriting and performances are uniformly excellent and crackle with intensity. His vocals aren’t the classic Robert Plant-like yowl of a hard rock front man, but they are quite excellent in their own regard. He’s also picked from among the cream of the crop for his musical partners on this voyage and their résumés sparkle with credits working for musicians as diverse as Husker Du, Aimee Mann, Spoon, and Bruce Springsteen. The eleven songs on The Flashpot Moments are dramatic, musical, confident, and entertaining. There’s scarcely a better assemblage of qualities listeners could want from any release, but especially one in this particular vein, and the final bonus is how Cawley achieves all of these things on his own terms and brings the audience along with him.
“Places Unknown” may be the only outright crowd-pleasing anthem on The Flashpot Moments. This is clearly, however, a number designed to bring a large concert together with a smiling, bright-eyed mix of hail hail rock and roll attitude, flashes of comedy, and a vocal that takes it all in with unabashed glee. Cawley accomplishes that and more. “On Some Awful Night” doesn’t have the same kind of catchy chorus, but it certainly leaves a mark and the songwriting as a whole carries listeners along with the same appealing breezy confidence. The production of this album renders everything in vivid detail, but this track shows better than most how the balance of instruments is so crucial to making this project work. The instrumental attack on “On Some Awful Night” breathes really well, never feels cluttered, and the vocals are integrated quite well with the songwriting. This is AOR rock with a kick and expertly executed without ever sounding over rehearsed or sterilized. Tim Cawley keeps things just dangerous enough.
The danger is never higher than it is on the songs “The Learning Curve” and “Hands Up!”, but it’s the first song that’s much more of a straight ahead rocker. The former track comes barreling out at listeners from the first and the occasional pauses for a guitar flourish accentuate its velocity rather than undercutting it. “Hands Up!” has more of discernible bite, but it also mixes things up more than the first while the heavy guitar pyrotechnics continuing firing off one volley after another. We’re treated to another intelligent uptempo rocker with the song “Satisfaction Isn’t”, but the tempo is much more moderate than we’ve heard on the preceding two tracks. It has one of the album’s best choruses however and the consistently strong use of backing vocals makes a positive impact here. Cawley closes this fine release with the, perhaps, expected big finish – “The Last Stand” clocks in over the seven minute mark, but it never feels over-extended. Cawley’s ability to make this album fly with focused and well-tuned rock cuts as well as extended pieces with multiple passages testifies to the extent of his talents.
9 out of 10 stars