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Album Review

Detroit's Volebeats specialize in a sort of classic pop (à la the Walker Brothers) form of north woods country music. Each record is a statement of bittersweet longing couched in lovely harmonies, ringing guitar waves, and bountiful tides of reverb. However, if not the "bitter" half of bittersweet, Solitude may at least be the road map toward the dark side of Middle America. The album is bookended by the instrumentals "Desert Song" and "Music Box" — the latter an exercise in collapsing wide open spaces, the former a muslin-wrapped sepia-toned portrait of a Main Street dime store gone ghost town. In between, the Volebeats work in their familiar palette of dual vocals (the angelic twang of Jeff Oakes and the plaintive '60s-tinged croon of Matthew Smith, both in fine, subdued form here), echo chamber sonics worthy of any pipeline-riding surf outfit (but at quarter speed and recorded in the depths of February), and the muted wallop of Scott Michalski's drumming (itself a main character in many of the songs' casts of sounds). The Volebeats often border on bleak but never give in to the darkness, even when exploring the maddening inner dialogue of traitorous love lost, as on "Back in a Minute," amidst the backdrop of "cold nights and scattered stars." There's always the comfort in sadness. And, when the suburbs of Detroit with their bleak, seemingly interminable winters and endless, intertwining highways are the environment in which your psyche is formed and your songs are crafted, borderline bleak is totally honest. There are moments of instrumental joy here, or at least nods toward rocking out for fun and frolic — such as the Link Wray-esque "Speed Boat." But on Solitude, the prevailing winds blow toward the kind of sentiments expressed on "Just as You Are Beautiful" — unrequited love observed with painful detail. No depression? The Volebeats may have redefined the term with Solitude.


Formed: 1988 in Hamtramck, MI

Genre: Country

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Born in and around the Motor City in 1988, the Volebeats formed due to a mutual displeasure and boredom with trendy bands and music. Starting as an acoustic outfit, lead guitarist/vocalist Matthew Smith and vocalist/guitarist Jeff Oakes began writing songs with Terry Rohm and Jeff's brother Al. With Keir McDonald (from Detroit's Medusa Cyclone) on drums, the Volebeats began performing on street corners throughout the Detroit suburbs. For the first few years of its existence, the band had a revolving...
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Solitude, Volebeats
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