Release date: November 8, 2011
When Sugar Red Drive’s sophomore album, A Story of Signs dropped in my lap I was surprised to discover they hail from Poughkeepsie, New York. My entire family grew up there, so there came an immediate hopefulness that the band would live up to the feel good nature of my childhood memories. Before I even slid the disc in the player I discovered not one, but two of rock’s most talented songwriter/producers had a hand in helping with this record.
Brian Howes (Halestorm, Hinder, Rev Theory, Puddle of Mudd) wrote and produced the album’s lead-off single, “No Apologies”. The remainder of the album was produced by Skidd Mills (Saving Abel, Sick Puppies, Saliva, 12 Stones) who just finished Egypt Central’s explosive new album, White Rabbit.
So far, so good. Now to the music. The band wrote every track on the album except the aforementioned track by Howes. From the opening riff of “Comin’ Down” it’s clear the band can write as well as play. The song has something of a Cheap Trick vibe on the pre-verse bridge, but the rest of the song is a ballsy, driving romp, full of hooks and melody. This rolls quite nicely into the grooving anthem to self-medicating escape “500 Miles” (from sober). Guitarist Jim Knauss really gets cooking on this one.
The Howes penned single “No Apologies” is up next and recalls Saving Abel in style. Says vocalist Archit Tripathi of the track;
“it’s about that stereotypical ramblin’, gamblin’ rock and roll band making its way across the land. You make ‘friends’ with a new girl in each town. The song’s perspective is a little different from my own, but that makes for a whole new experience for me onstage, getting to play this balls-out, cocky guy who makes ‘No Apologies’ it’s fun for a few moments and then I come back down to my regular self again.”
“Overdrive” has a gritty in-your-face feel, with a bit of a Southern flavor which also comes out on “Water In Wine” These two remind me a bit of Black Stone Cherry as a frame of reference.
In between those two tracks sits the album’s most serious moment, “Marching Man”. The anti-war, pro-troops elegy aches with a plaintive melancholy so many of us have felt watching our soldiers and their families torn asunder by this war.
The party returns on the rollicking, “Pretty Lil Lady” and continues on the re-recorded single and title track from the band’s minor label release, One More Time.
That Cheap Trick/Beatles vibe returns to flavor the melodic anthem, “Jaded” which the band co-wrote with Mills. Bassist David Alexander really finds his groove and gets his rumble on with this one. In fact, the entire band really kicks this one hard, including drummer PJ Gasperini, whose rock steady stickmanship is enough to incite air drummers everywhere.
The band throws some stink on the funky call-to-arms rocker, “Music”, while the album closes out with a couple of semi-acoustic numbers, “Harder To Smile” and “Miller’s Daughter”. The latter reminds me a bit of Tonic.
Oddly the heaviest, most pounding song on the record comes at the very end of the record as a hidden 14th track. I won’t reveal more about it. The band kept it a secret for a reason.
In all, A Story of Signs is a very promising debut. Sugar Red Drive is going to turn some heads and please a lot of ears.