In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, inspired by Jack White’s new solo effort, we’re picking songs by solo acts that split from our favorite bands.
When Tony Molina started his solo project he had an easier task than most. His band Ovens existed on-and-off for a decade, and though the band will still occasionally pop up for a show here and there, the songwriting of Ovens always bore Molina’s mark. The band’s best material took fuzzed-out Weezer riffs, classic vocal melodies, and the best Iron Maiden guitar solos and tossed them all in a blender. Topping it off was the fact that songs rarely lasted longer than a minute or two, giving them the effect of a bite-size candy bar: Sugary and sweet but never too much of a good thing.
When Molina released Dissed And Dismissed in 2013 (which has received a well-deserved, wider re-release this year) he picked up right where Ovens left off, proving that with a solo project he could shred all the same solos with nary an element being lost. “Don’t Come Back” is a perfect approximation of what makes Dissed And Dismissed a record deserving of repeat listens (aside from the fact its 12 songs in just over 11 minutes seemingly demand it). After a wall of wailing feedback the song kicks in with overdriven guitar melodies and Molina’s vocal lines that can’t help but feel lifted from ’60s pop singles. But it’s the back half of “Don’t Come Back” that truly makes a statement, when the song gets eaten by a chugging breakdown–a moment that’s not an homage to the hardcore bands Molina still plays in, but proof that mosh-ready chugs inform his songwriting as much anything pop–that then gives way to a triumphant, Iron Maiden meets surf-rock solo before looping back to the mosh-ready riff that started it.
When Molina played in Chicago on an off-day from his tour supporting Against Me! and Big Eyes it was hard to not get sucked into his performance. The small crowd headbanged gloriously during mosh parts, bopped around during the power-pop moments, and then nearly half the room (myself included) air guitared triumphantly during the lead breaks. The room gave itself fully to Molina’s compact offerings. Punk, metal, and hardcore shows are rarely this joyously fun, and even if it only lasted for Molina’s 20-minute set, it was a nice reprieve from a scene that’s often taken a little too seriously. In the words of Japandroids, it could easily be considered “celebration rock,” but with a few more Cro-Mags references thrown in.