At The Gates
One of the more welcome byproducts of MP3s eradicating the CD age has been the return of the 30-minute album. Instead of padding an 80-minute disc with six or seven extra songs that don’t belong there, bands have re-discovered the value of tight, succinct statements that come and go before attention-deficient listeners have a chance to skip to the next track. The latest example of this is At The Gates, the full-length debut by joyously jangly Milwaukee/Madison pop-rock band The Midwest Beat, which blasts through its first five songs in the same amount of time it used to take Metallica to get to the chorus in the mid-’90s.
The Midwest Beat would likely argue that the return of brevity is really a consequence of the resurgence of vinyl, which rewards bands that can deliver fits of messy melancholy in highly spirited 15-minute bursts. (At The Gates is getting a vinyl reissue by Milwaukee label Dusty Medical after a limited release last year by Duck On Monkey Records.) Similar to The Goodnight Loving and Jaill (both of which feature ex-Midwest Beat singer-guitarist Ryan Adams), The Midwest Beat worships at the altar of zippy mid-’60s British Invasion bands and specializes in delivering straightforward rock ’n’ roll pleasures rooted in the old-school principles of harmonies, hearty melodies, and heartsick songs about girls. (Not women, girls.)
Whether whipping themselves into a soul-inspired frenzy on “Need You Badly,” or playing rocked-up Bakersfield country on “Hard To Please,” The Midwest Beat keeps things peppy and upbeat on At The Gates, slowing down only for the gooey doo-wop of “Don’t Fool Me” and The Replacements-esque drinking ballad “Late At Nite.” The Midwest Beat won’t score any points for lyrical depth, but At The Gates is such a breezy (and delightful) listen that it makes caring about lyrical depth seem a little ridiculous.
The Midwest Beat performs Saturday at Club Garibaldi for Dusty Medical Records' fifth-anniversary party.