By Ken Shimamoto
“He always said that less is more,” Tony Diaz sang in “Before,” a song that his old band Bindle wrote about their once-and-future bandmate Daniel Gomez. Since 2002, when he, Gomez, and Matt Hembree reconvened the floating crap game that started in the early ‘90s with Muffinhead, they’ve been guided by that maxim – paring down Bindle’s omnivorous eclecticism and cooperative approach to composition to something more channeled and focused. They stick to their guns on their sophomore CD, only four years in the making, which clocks in at just over 35 minutes, and doesn’t even include a fave song of mine from their last couple of years of live sets (“Arm and Mouth”). But whatthehell – nobody listens to 80-minute CDs all the way through anyway, and the ways in which these boyos deploy what they’ve got, while not always intuitively obvious, indicate that they’re still smarter than the average rockarolla.
Like opening the CD with a set-climaxing fist-pumper, f’rinstance – that’d be “Revelation of Revolution,” which closed many a Goodwin set before its place was usurped by the aforementioned (and as-yet-unrecorded) “Arm and Mouth.” “I don’t wanna be the only one to make noise from the crowd,” sings Tony, before unleashing a scream to rival Daltrey’s at the ass-end of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Is it a coincidence that I’ve been listening to/thinking about the Who, a band with the same pleasure centers as Goodwin -- e.g., power, drama, and triumphalism in the best sense – a lot during the week that this disc arrived? I think not. Other referents that might or might not resonate for different listeners: Bob Mould at his most Sugar-anthemic, Gomez faves the Foo Fighters (whose resident genius Dave Grohl recently had the audacity to suggest that he might wanna play drums for Led Zeppelin!), even, um, Rush in places (minus the vocal shrillness, of course). But sequencing a CD is not like pacing a live set, and “RoR” does its work here: kicking down the door with a promise of thrills to come that’d only disappoint if the rest of the disc didn’t deliver.
That done, the Goodwin boys follow it with their traditional/habitual set starter, “Write For You,” its muted opening giving way to a rollercoaster ride of dynamic shifts – a hallmark of this set of songs -- that showcase the band’s signature strengths: Tony’s heart-on-sleeve vocalismo, Gomez’s rich tone and unusual chord voicings, Hembree’s deftly melodic bass thumping, and Damien Stewart’s inside-the-music drumming that manages to be both flashily decorative and crisply propulsive at once; above all, the way the musos vary their accompaniment to build and release tension.
Fans who’ve grown accustomed to hearing these songs live will delight in added nuances like the sighing power pop backing vocals on “Revelation of Revolution” and “Two Again,” or the guitar fillip Gomez plays under the “tear it all asunder” bit in the bridge of “Progress Is Lonely,” or the fact that he’s allowing himself more room to solo on some of these songs than he did on the “blue album,” and that he does so with all the musicality and grace you’d expect from such a perfectionist. Speaking of “Grace,” that’s also the title of another tune that veers repeatedly from minimalism to maximalism, the drums shifting from metronomic tapping (like some throwback to the skinny-tie “New Wave” of the late ‘70s) to full-bore bashing, the guitar’s saturated sound threatening to overwhelm its player’s precise control at any moment; also dig the way Hembree’s bass line shadows the singer on the bridge.
Up until track 8, the departures from the first album’s template have been fairly subtle, but the closing series of juxtapositions shows just how much Goodwin’s sonic palette has expanded these past four years. The Rush comparison I made earlier is most apt when applied to the bombastic bluster of the disc’s least typical piece, “Telekinesis Vs Indifference,” which starts out with a grandiose-sounding bolero riddim before busting into balls-out rockin’ ramalama. At the end of the song, the guitar sounds like it’s about to finally boil over into a roaring feedback maelstrom; instead, it segues into “Red”’s nervously telegraphic intro, reflecting the anxieties of the lyric’s jealous lover: “Everything we’ve buried underground / It’s in view.” To close the disc, it’s down to just Tony and Matt on “Trading Up,” where the singer drops his sometimes buffoonish, always unabashedly extroverted persona (“It’s not as funny / When you’re the only one who laughs”) to spin a wistful tale of loss and regret over sensitive accompaniment from the bassist, replete with chiming harmonics.
I’ll admit that I’m one who generally prefers live electricity over studio polish, but purely on its own terms, Goodwin’s 2 is a finely-wrought example of that rarity, the Big Rock Record. The painstaking (and somewhat glacial) process of its creation paid off in a work that’s rich in sonic detail (kudos to Fort Worth Sound’s Bart Rose for the mix), none of which would matter if the songs didn’t deliver the emotional wallop that they do. Now, about “Arm and Mouth,” fellas – before 2012, I hope? Goodwin plays 6th Street Live/Lola's Friday, 1.18.2008, with Darth Vato. The CD release party for Goodwin 2 will be at the Ridglea Theater on 2.29.2008.