Jamestown is typically referred to for its rich history in comedy. While the scene there is thriving, with the new addition of the National Comedy Center, the presence of a budding arts scene separate from comedy doesn’t typically get much coverage. A handful of bands there are set on changing that though, with local quartet Cold Lazarus leading the charge. They have made appearances at numerous NYS festivals- notably a new hometown event called Whirlybird Festival. Their most recent release, titled Cold Lazarus, provides context for the group’s consistent growth from local Jamestown group to larger NY area standouts. They’re adept at composing epic tracks filled to the brim with exploratory gumption and tight performances.
Each track tends to follow a bit of a formula. Not a predictable one, but more of a feel-centered equation. The band works with composing mood as much as they do with composing the actual music. There’s a groove set, then throughout the songs the group changes the nuances of that groove via mood, color, and various other avenues apart from just actual instrumentation an notation. Listening to any song, it’s apparent how much live work the band has put into this set of songs. Adam Gould (guitar) and Gavin Paterniti (bass) find ways to match up on their instruments and carry on ear-catching vocal harmonies. Drew Minton (keys/sax) provides a wash of diverse key sounds, and adds sax solos to the more improv heavy tracks. Marc Scapelitte’s spry drums maintain an energy throughout the album that never lets the vibe fall into a lull. With the group being so tight live, the real challenge would likely be finding a way to keep that energy in the studio. The group does well to maintain that energy, and while doing so leaving room for their live performances to expand upon these album takes.
A big highlight of the album is how well the band varies the genre- even doing so within a single song. The sixth track, “Pieces” is a good example of how the group can take a funk groove, and break it open to a more spacious and atmospheric jam. The song opens with Minton presenting a Hammond riff which his a little more complex and funky. The group solidifies a jam over top of the set groove, throwing in key modulations and some break downs to amp up the energy. Eventually, the vibe changes as Minton slams out a more contemporary progression on an Al Stewart-esque grand piano. They take the main theme and break it up into a spaced-out jam. The second track, “Maybe”, offers a similar build but with completely different moods. The song begins with a standard sounding build, but side steps into a guitar solo which is overlaid on a really spacious sounding instrumental. Cold Lazarus’ members sound all in tune with each other, as they change the mood and genre on a dime more than once in this track alone. Their songs are all but conventional while still remaining familiar as they inject common influences without sounding derivative.
Cold Lazarus has a knack for their epic tracks, but can also bring it back down to earth with simple and fun reggae tracks. While these don’t stand out as much as their more unique and characteristically intesse songs, these showcase the ability for Cold Lazarus to write simpler songs with sticky pop melodies. The fifth song, “She is Beautiful”, offers uplifting lyrics, strong harmonies, and a generally upbeat mood break from the heavier sounding songs on the album. In this track specifically, the sax solo from Minton and the chicken-picken sounding solo from Gould prevent the song from being generic and allow the group to expand a bit on a simpler chord progression. These tunes harken back to the summer, sitting outside by a festival stage and watching the band lay out generally fun reggae tunes.
The lyrics don’t get boring, musing on ideas of life being a simulation or offering cheeky commentary on the state of the social reality we live in. The words are relate-able, never getting too personal for the listener to find common ground with the narrator. “Shit’s Lit Fam” offers a nice sarcastic take on how people behave. The vocal delivery is so casual, and works really well in the context of the song. The vocal performances sit within the realm of indie/alt. You can hear some Rivers Cuomo and Thom Yorke in there, and each melody is written beautifully. The band doesn’t lean on the vocals too hard, but still make good use of them regardless of how heavily instrumental the tracks are.
Overall, this debut album release gives Cold Lazarus a lot to be proud of. They carved out a sound within the jam scene that fuses everything from funk, to reggae, to alt rock to create an epic sound topped off by technically proficient instrumentalists. The band creates anthemic rock songs, sometimes fitting several musical ideas into one song. Their ability to create a groove and change the mood over top of it allows them to leave room to musically develop over time, so that the long tracks are not redundant. Between the ear worms, the variations, and the energy, Cold Lazarus’ self-titled release holds up to the buzz the band has gotten and will get. Check them out in a town near you as they continue to expand their reach into the greater NYS region and beyond!