TOMS RIVER, NJ – I have bad luck with bands. Usually, when I hear a band I like immediately, they end up breaking up or changing their sound inevitably going in a direction I don’t get. Both of these scenarios have caused me to reserve judgement or to pretend I don’t hear what is obviously a great sound. Rare is the band who holds no risk at all for because I don’t tend to casually like bands or music. I have listen to everything they’ve ever made. It’s a time investment.
Not so with River City Extension. I admit, I’d never heard of them until minutes before we departed for the fabled Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. As short jump from Lady S’s hometown of Toms River, the Stone Pony is known as the starting point for The Boss and other lesser names in music.
In any case, I was informed that we were going to see a band called River City Extension and this was their last performance together. I hoped they were good. They were more than good. But therein lies the problem and the solution. A great band in whom I have nothing invested with no risk of breaking up because it already happened. I intently began to listen to their 4 records.
Nautical Sabbatical (2009) – A very deep first record colored with shades of the pre-jamband 1990’s college music scene, but with a modern sensibility and better instrumentation. Favorite song: Elephant.
The Unmistakable Man (2010) – Sonic arms in every direction tell you this band has been hard at work for a while. A much more mature record with recognizable influences that don’t overpower the individual experiences of each song. Favorite song: Waiting in the Airport.
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger (2012) –
This is where you can start to hear the mythos forming. From the opening track, Glastonbury, this record invokes melancholy – is that a sunset or sunrise in the album art? Sam Tacon’s backing vocals lift If You Need Me Back In Brooklyn. By far, my favorite RCE. Favorite song: Ballad of Oregon.
Deliverance (2015) – The final record…”so young,” Joe Michelini said at their final show. It’s easy to see why this record is confusing to some fans, why it’s considered a departure. The songs appear to change emotional modes midstream, the texture of each interrupted somehow.
Tonally, this record has a different feel like many late efforts. Departure of key personnel, artistic perspective changes, etc. There are a dozen reasons a fourth (and final) album can feel different. However, I would contend that this record makes perfect sense in the context and narrative of an American band in 2015. Let’s just hope the growth continues into compelling projects after River City Extension has faded from aural memory for those outside the Jersey indie scene. Favorite song: White Blackmail.