Monday, August 31, 2015

Hard Root Beer Review - Not Your Father's Root Beer

I had been overhearing co-workers talk about "Not Your Father's Rootbeer"* for some time so when I saw a single bottle at Trader Joe's I decided to give it a whirl. Because I'm all about the quirky and unusual drinks out there I decided to write about it, and make a new series. It's not uncommon for me to pick up some unknown can of unknown substance and unknown origin at Big Lots and give it a swig. In this way I'm uniquely suited for the job of trying and writing about this recent surge of root beer flavored adult beverages and I'm not one to back away from a task for which I'm uniquely suited.

The ABV of this beverage is 5.9%, about on par with a dark beer. It smells very much like root beer but doesn't have a lot of carbonation. My first impression was that it was very sweet and then that the mouthfeel was wrong. It just seemed thin, more like water than pop** or beer. Even Lite beer. And then the aftertaste hit. Aftertaste in an ale? Unfortunately so. The only way I can describe it is "kinda oily." Weird. This didn't go away with subsequent tastes. Super-sweet, off-setting thinness, twang of oiliness. Repeat. Notice that I didn't include "enjoy root beer flavor" in that list as it was lacking any kind of depth. It was like someone poured cheap rootbeer flavoring*** into an average ale and added a couple of drops of 3-in-1 oil.

Once again I'm on the outs with the general population. The popularity of this brew is seemingly creating a market for other kinds of hard root beers, or at least it seems to from suddenly seeing this and others at the supermarket where before there were none. Go on, John Q Public, and buy your Not Your Fathers by the case... I have no need to put this into my mouth again.

* I work in one of those dreaded cube-farms so you hear every conversation going on within twenty feet of you without trying.

** "Pop" is my regional expression for carbonated sugary drinks. Deal with it.

*** We're talking store brand, as in Sav-A-Lot.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Review - Youth Choir - Shades of Grey

NOW I get to write a review of Shades of Gray, a five song EP from 1986 the band recorded in a hurry so they would have something more to sell while on a prestigious twenty city tour with the prestigious Steve Taylor. The urgency of the recording process translated into a very energetic feel to these early songs despite being 80% drum machine. Yes, drum machine again but at least it was programmed by someone who knew their way around a kit because they are very convincing rhythms. Let’s dig in, shall we?

“Fade Into You” opens with a crisp piano, played by Derri. Bass and drums enter, propelling the song into the verse where Tim playfully colors outside the lines. Funny how I just noticed how Tim plays a few notes off the root, adding some wonderful tension. Also extra-deluxe is the middle passage which is 100% keyboard but sounds amazingly orchestral due to the counterpoint arrangement and decent synth-string sound. The song sports amazing lyrics, yearning for a closer relationship with God, that are the kind of fresh and earnest worship that I wish were more en vogue today.

“15 Doors” lyrically foreshadows a Hindalong specialty in telling a story from a brief episode and expanding it to broader implications. This story is that their tour van broke down and they had to knock on fifteen doors before someone let them in. Imagine from the band’s side: They are late twenties and harmless Christian believers. Imagine from the home owners side: It’s late, it’s dark, and these spikey-haired punks are knocking on your door. However as Steve artfully puts it “I saw somebody in the window / A light on in the hall / Could I step inside for one moment / And give my wife a telephone call? / So sorry to alarm you / I’m not gonna harm you / Don’t call the night patrol.” There’s a tremendous amount of energy in this song perfectly encapsulated in the U2-ish guitar riff.

“More Than Words” is another early indication of their sound, utilizing Dan’s echoy lyricon to make a whispy, gauzy puff of a song with amazing lyrics told from our Redeemer’s viewpoint. While only 2:36 it seems just the right length for this shoe-gazing experiment.

You know it’s the eighties because “Tears Don’t Fall” has a sax solo. It’s a good one but still, it’s there. While more in line with their debut the production is better. So is the bass (which is up from in the mix and sounds thick a meaty) and the extra musical flourishes that keep your interest. “All Night Long” prefigures yet another Choir pattern, that of the moody and dark yet melodic and hopeful perfect pop song.

Shades of Grey is a foreshadowing of all that The Choir will become with strong pop-based melodies and a sense of experimentation and adventure, but not so much as to scare off youth pastors raised on Petra.

* Um, what are they looking at on the cover?