The roots of Los Angeles based five piece Cranky George go back a long way. Accordionist James Fearnley, a co-founder of legendary folk/punk bank The Pogues first joined forces with Kieran and Dermot Mulroney in 1994 to form The Low and Sweet Orchestra The outfit garnered a considerable amount of critical acclaim. Following their disbandment, Fearnley and the Mulroney Brothers formed Cranky George and rounded their new lineup out with the addition of Brad Wood on bass and Sebastian Sheehan Visconti on percussion. The band released a well-received EP, but outside commitments have impeded their ability to release a full length debut until now. Their first studio album, Fat Lot of Good, is scheduled for an October 14th release and the first single, “Nighttime”, has dropped as a taste of the feast to come.
It’s a relatively languid and superbly produced first single. The vocals have a rich, lower-register tone that never flirts with the mournful despite some gray or bittersweet lyrical turns. Cranky George presents a full-bodied sound with the instruments in seamless accord with one another – more shoddily produced affairs (or a bit of band politics) will often focus the production balance on a single performer at the varying expense of other elements in the song. There is nothing of the sort going on here. Cranky George is presented as a singular unit with tangible artistic chemistry and working towards a common goal. One instrumental talent that stands out and seems to be the song’s secret ingredient is drummer Sebastian Sheehan Visconti. His work on the skins lends a sharp sense of the dramatic to the song that it might not otherwise possess and it’s accomplished through his sense of taste and restraint rather than pure muscle. After decades of having our collective ears caved in by bash and thud Neanderthals, Visconti’s performance reminds longtime music listeners of what a drummer with real swing and judicious amount of power can bring to an already fantastic composition.
The song’s languid qualities create a nice understated tension when placed against Visconti’s drumming. “Nighttime” sounds like it’s forever teetering on the edge of some enormous crescendo and listeners will wait for it… but it never quite arrives. Instead, Cranky George specializes in a number of smaller releases, turns with modulated drama, and as such, the song keeps us transfixed throughout. The lyrical content is particularly strong. 30+ years removed from The Pogues’ debut, Fearnley and his cohorts have high bars to clear in this area, but they clear each hurdle with room to spare and an easiness of phrase and image that will leave many listeners impressed.
The first single from Fat Lot of Good conclusively proves that the wait for Cranky George’s debut has been well worth the time. It isn’t an album to likely contain any filler. This is a collection of top shelf artists with a fully-rounded musical and artistic vision that helps their music sound like they are on their fourth full length instead of prepping to release their debut. “Nighttime” is a real stunner and bodes well for the future.