The Skinny: During the 1990s, if someone’s cat wrote a song by walking on a Casio keyboard — as long as it happened in Seattle — that shit got recorded and released. Pete Droge is not that guy. Necktie Second is classic-rock songcraft from the heart, transmitted through a delicate, fragile brain. A mid-tempo walk through the Hall of Fame of radio-rock styles with beefy, vintage guitar tones.
Sounds like: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Replacements, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Old 97s
Deeper Thoughts: If you’ve got the fever for more cowbell, look no further than the single from this debut release by one of the less-celebrated artists to come out of the Pacific northwest during this period. “If You Don’t Love Me (I’ll Kill Myself)” is as touching a call for help/marriage proposal as I’ve heard. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers echo all over this quasi-radio track. “Straylin Street” evokes the vocal stylings of the late Ronnie Van Zandt (think, “Simple Kind of Man”). Neil Young’s, “Helpless” would fit comfortably on this record, and if Leonard Cohen had grown up in Washington state during the heyday of FM radio, he might have written the suicide-watch slow grinder “4th of July.” By the way, it really takes balls to bury the best song on the record in the #8 slot — “Hardest Thing to Do” simmers with desperation in the verse until it explodes with longing in the chorus. Elaine Summers contributes heart-breaking backing vocals. I really hope Pete’s OK…
The Sonics: Very engaging. Big, round, warm & fuzzy guitar tones are featured throughout. The mixes allow ample peripheral space around each instrument. O’Brien found a simple, organic sound that invites you to keep listening to the next tune. Great low-frequency body, even though the bass does get a bit floppy at times. It’s a little annoying that at the beginning of several tracks the mix is panned hard right until all the instruments enter to fill it out. This disc is a way more satisfying listen than the streaming ear-bud experience.