Tulips have been gracing the Mid-Ohio Valley with their brand of rock and roll for some time. Becoming a stalwart of the local scene, they have won a lot of hearts and ears with their passion and rhythm. Their new record, Deflowered, is a stellar example of the kind of music this valley grows.
From the first moments, the band makes it clear what they intend to do. An exuberant four count from the hi-hat brings the listener right into "Alright", and a salvo of Seth Anderson's rapid-fire garage rock vocals. The icebreaker track is a masterclass in four-on-the-floor rock and roll, with driving guitars courtesy of Nate Shahan and Jimmy Woodward. Immediately one finds plenty of nods to classic garage and punk rock, with the kind of slinky rhythms that would find themselves at home on a Stooges record. In rock and roll, any band is only good as its rhythm section. Cody Bauman and Greg Gillilan, on drums and bass respectively, demonstrate quickly that Tulips has nothing to worry about. This is the kind of music one can dance to or drink to, interchangeably or simultaneously.
The album's second track, "Gunshow", shows the band's ability to deliver a hook. Musically and lyrically, it's the kind of track that finds its way into one's head and stays there for days on end. All the instruments deftly work their way around a shared riff, providing the kind of musical synergy rarely seen in modern rock and roll. The lead guitar both soars and wanders, picking the right moments to take the spotlight. Anderson's repeated invitation to "Grab your gun" may have many folks reaching for one they don't have.
The band shows a vulnerable side on "Maria", the album's third track, telling the story of a down on his luck narrator's pleas to the titular Maria. A change in pace, the introspective lyrics present the listener with a nice departure from the gritty rock and roll of the earlier songs. The vulnerability and honesty of a song like "Maria" serves to make the swagger of much of the rest of the record more believable.
The remainder of the record finds a young band consistently at the peak of their craft, with the interplay of the band's respective voices creating a set of songs as deep as it is dynamic. Anderson's words play expertly to the moods provided by the instrumentals, ensuring their emotional impact. He moves from the bravado of a conquering hero to the fragility of fine porcelain and back again seamlessly, and the rest of the band follows suit with equal ease. The final track, "Cersei", finds the band building to a frantic crescendo before leaving the listener with a few final volleys of distorted guitar.
It bears mention that for many years, "self produced" oftentimes meant "placed a tape recorder in the middle of the room". While self produced, "Deflowered" couldn't sound further from a record committed to a Memorex cassette. The production absolutely shines with polished clarity and depth. It's the kind of record that makes you feel like the band is in your living room, pouring their all into a private show. Such attention to detail shows a band that is confident in its songwriting and sound.
"Deflowered", in its six songs, is an exhilarating ride. It builds, it falls, it punches, and it retreats. It is demonstrative of what a rock and roll band can, and should, be: Equal parts heart, brains, and exuberance.
Deflowered releases tomorrow (Friday, 3/9/18), and is available on most digital platforms. Find it on Amazon, here.