Review of One-Way Ticket from Indie-Music.com
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Artist: Brian Hartzog
In the interest of journalistic integrity, let me get something out of the way right now. I went to high school with Brian Hartzog in Kinston, North Carolina. We didnt hang out together, but I remember the tall, skinny, quiet guy from my English classes, both of us blinking away the haze that was forming over our eyeballs as our teacher made us read Hamlet for the seventeenth time in our scholastic careers. I think that teacher had simply lost her will to live and was hoping that making us analyze the hell out of that play would eventually allow her to keel over from boredom.
But I digress. I escaped...I mean, graduated Kinston High in 1987 and fled...I mean left Kinston to pursue a writing career. And now, several years later, my editor has forwarded me an email from Brian Hartzog, saying that he went to school with me and would like me to listen to his new CD, One-Way Ticket.
And heres where my objectivity comes into question. Let me assure everyone reading this review that I truly like this CD. If I didnt, you would see another writers name on this review, because I would have engaged in the time-honored journalistic tradition of passing the buck. My writing staff loves me for it, which is why they never answer my emails.
With that out of the way, I will review Hartzogs second CD, One-Way Ticket.
That tall, skinny, quiet guy must have been a volcano waiting to explode. Thank God he did it with a guitar and not a semiautomatic rifle. Hartzogs music practically knocked me out of my chair. Its hungry, relentless musical energy. This artist has taken a wide range of influences from funk to classic rock to folk and brought them together for one big jam. Imagine the Violent Femmes playing Prince music. Imagine the Sex Pistols playing Dylan. Imagine Parliament-Funkadelic stopping by to lend their horn section to the whole thing.
As for whether you should take this kind of thing from a white boy who confesses that hes still a tall, skinny, deathly shy geek, rest assured that his voice conveys all the credibility he needs. In Motha Funky, he issues a dead serious command to hit the dance floor, and I instinctively got up to obey before suddenly remembering that I was in my living room. Usually I get restless when a song goes beyond four minutes, but like Hartzog says, This aint no average jam. I just love the horns. I love the shouts back and forth between Brian and the boys. If you do not feel compelled to move to this, check for a pulse.
Hes at his best in these high-energy tracks, another case in point being Daily Grind, a rapid-fire punk attack on the nine-to-five. Fast Girl in a Pretty Car is almost exhausting to listen to. Hartzog must have bulked up on carbs before recording that one.
But hes also got his serious side, and tracks like Amys Run Away keep the CD from jamming completely out of control. This is a brutally realistic song about a girl who runs from an abusive home only to find herself the victim of someone else. As a runaway, she couldnt call the cops, Hartzog sings almost bitterly, as a little girl, she couldnt make him stop.
Dont Say No is another solid change of pace, a moody, gloomy, brush-stroke percussion and echoed guitar ballad of lost love. Hartzog will not go quietly into any musical compartment. Just when you think you know how to describe this sound, he grabs his guitar and jolts out something new. Hes an insightful and sensitive artist, and he also likes to get his funk on.
Yeah, I wrote that. If that quiet white kid from Kinston can stake his musical claim deep into Parliament-Funkadelic territory, then this quiet white kid from Kinston can write get his funk on. I have no idea what it means. I need to find Brian at the next Kinston High reunion and ask him.