Reviewed by Rebecca Sheriff
Before I saw him play last month at Barnaby’s Pub in Endwell, I knew very little about Randy McStine. (I have since been informed he was a guitar prodigy.) I enjoyed the gig with John Kanazawich, which included a well-done sampling from Abbey Road, and the night closed with a variety of interesting covers that truly showcased the guitarist’s talent. Unfortunately, very few original songs were played. When McStine did play two cuts from his latest CD, “ Lo-Fi Resistance,” he jokingly asked the small crowd not to leave.
It was slightly difficult to hear McStine, and most of the lyrics could not be made out. However, the originals interested me enough to purchase the CD. In a recent interview, McStine said “Lo-Resistance” is “accessible to just the average music listener” and “intense” to the “musically well-trained.” I understood this comment as I listened to the tracks. A common theme on the album is a melodic catchy chorus, a “trippy” verse and then a guitar solo/bridge that departs and requires the listener to go on a journey with McStine.
Overall, I found the vocals low in the mix, much as in the performance I had seen. This is unfortunate; although McStine’s true talent is his guitar paying, his vocal performance is solid, and I would have preferred not to feel as if I was straining to hear him. I often had to refer to the very nicely produced lyric book inside the CD case to know what McStine was singing.
The first track consisted only of a sampling of what sounds like recent news bites in the “low fi” quality the album title refers to. This leads into the first full track titled “Welcome New Star.” I would venture to guess this may refer to the new president at the time the song was written with lyrics such as “Hello new star, we’ve come so far, to take our chances with you” and “there’s no fear anymore and we don’t comprehend the concept of war.” The track has a very pop-like Beatles feel to it that may indeed be accessible to most listeners.
Other tracks that stand out include the third song which is my favorite on the album titled “. ” (yes, that’s the title!). I feel drawn to this song as it elicits the most feeling. “.” starts out with an aggressive guitar groove, then leads into another trippy verse. The chorus utilizes the hard rock groove from the introduction and is very engaging although it feels it should be longer. The lyrics fit well with the music here: “It’s coming on, this anger, that makes me dead inside.” The bridge departs to a more mellow, full rock solo.
The highlight of the CD is a track titled “Too Simple.” Clocking in at almost nine minutes, the song starts as a beautiful acoustic ballad and transforms into an instrumental journey. An unexpected flute solo takes over, perhaps conveying the idea of “simple.” The complex synthesized departure ends with a bold saxophone and keyboard solo contrasting with the simple flute melody. Ultimately the listener is brought back to the key lyric — “That would be too simple” — with the “simple” acoustic guitar pattern from the beginning.
Common themes are present throughout the album characteristic of what I would imagine to be part of a “Lo-Fi Resistance.” Questions regarding the grand design, simplicity and morality pose a quiet, yet thoughtful resistance to the current state of society’s coping mechanisms for modern struggles.
Overall, McStine is an asset to the area, bringing forth provoking, yet accessible music.