Sat down in your favourite chair with a cup of tea in your favourite mug, ready to listen to some new music and discover a new universe. None the wiser, you insert your earbuds and hit the play button, totally forgetting that your volume is still on beyond 11, and are almost deafened by the immediate ferocity of Small Town Titans. No band name has ever been as well described as the one that befits the Pennsylvanian trio, as their latest album The Ride has an undeniable presence that fills the space between atoms.
A heart attack inducing scream pierces into the skin of ‘Rufflin’ Feathers,’ before the party begins with a feel good rock n’ roll riff with dirtier edges and an underlying ulterior motive. Bassist and vocalist’s Phil Freeman’s dynamic range is immediately apparent, matching that of Inglorious’ Nathan James with another soul-shaking scream to lead the track out, the intensity making itself known that Small Town Titans are not here to fuck around.
‘The Man’ exhibits the sexy soulful swagger of Led Zeppelin, Freeman’s change in vocal direction from angelic devil to full blown trickster is unavoidably hypnotic and bewitching. Tinged with remnants of Shinedown, the track dabbles in the rejection of conformity and domesticity, parading about with masculine authority and dominance.
Southern blues warmth weaves in and out of this record, ‘Behind the Moon’ floating atop Lynyrd Skynyrd family values with a country guitar solo from Ben Guiles that’ll leave you with a bright skip in your step for the rest of the day. ‘Let Me Breathe’ gasps with so much soul, the melancholic grunge influence infiltrating the tracks lyrics on suppressing the darkest corners of our selves; “Get behind me, and follow your leader// And remember your place, get behind me dear shadow.” Whilst not letting the darkness consume and define us, we’re exposed to a glimpse of the demon that creeps within the void as Freeman’s vocals once again retreat to the deepest parts of his range.
For a lot of us, the prospect of having a career on the road or in the entertainment industry is a dream goal, where doing what you love means you’ll never have to work a day in your life. The average office day job however is always waiting on the sidelines for you to fall, threatening to become a permanent reality, and the acoustic vibes of ‘9 to 5’ capture that fear. The revolving boredom and groundhog day life drives the average Joe to seek release through alcohol and drugs; “Why can’t we drink, just to get drunk? Why can’t we smoke, just to get high? Motivated by 9 to 5 life. Why do we work, just to get by?” This track will have you handing in your resignation to your boss on Monday morning with a raging hangover.
‘Sex and Candy’ and ‘Junkie for You’ ooze with sleazy swagger, like walking past an inconspicuous building with tinted windows as smoke billows out from the front door, lights are turned down to a low orange glow, and the stench of cheap perfume tickles the nostrils. Louisianan jazz beats pulse with Jonny Ross’ drums below carnal and indulgent lyrics; “Hey mumma you don’t need nothing fixed, ‘cause the only thing that’s fixing this whole situation is the fix that you’re giving me, ‘cause I’m a junkie for you.”
Contrasting the previous track, ‘When it All Comes Down’ bombards onto the scene with thrash metal intentions and wakes you up if you’ve dared to blink for a second too long. Nu metal breakdowns make their mark with extreme guitar squeals and a spoken word segment that feels apocalyptic.
With a soft and soothing voice, Guiles’ guitar work matches the delicate melody of Freeman’s vocals on the final and title track ‘The Ride.’ A tempo change midway through breathes new life into the song, a soundtrack you could kickass to. Stabs of machine-gunning double kick drums hint at more skilful capabilities, before switching back to a slower end to the record and ending with the profound lyric, “ticking clock upon the shelf, and tallies on the wall.” Small Town Titans have their hands in numerous cookie jars, yet the cookies they pull out are made with their own unique recipes borrowed and mixed from others’, keeping The Ride fresh and ballsy.
The Ride is self-released and available on all streaming platforms