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Mass Avenue Freeze-Out

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Album Review

Mass Avenue Freeze-Out finds the Gravel Pit exploring familiar territory in their songwriting while breaking new ground in terms of performance and production. Released in June of 2001, the third album from these Boston favorites works out to be around half guitar rock and half sonic layering akin to Nigel Godrich's work on Beck's Mutations. This is particularly evident on "Why," which combines alternately chiming and growling keyboards with prominent percussion. However, lead singer and songwriter Jed Parrish has let his Farfisa organ, previously a Gravel Pit centerpiece, take a backseat on much of Mass Avenue Freeze-Out. What is presented instead is a combination of sounds that work to make the record float somewhere slightly above the past five decades of rock & roll, incorporating the best and most appropriate elements from each as Mass Avenue Freeze-Out rolls along. But it's all energy and there is rarely a lull — "The Ballad of the Gravel Pit" is, in fact, a furious rocker. The closest thing to a ballad here is "Get Rough," and that's only in contrast with the rest of the album. The song is really more slow-driving pop number than ballad. Parrish has created a distinctive voice in both his songwriting and singing, tossing off angular melodies and improvising vocal riffs that seem improbable, like Morrissy or Frank Black's work with the Pixies. He keeps the listener off guard by going for atypical harmonies and defying expectations of what each note will be by setting patterns only to break them. Yet the melodies remain pleasing. Parrish has an excellent voice and he delivers the changes with a control and smooth clarity reminiscent of Elvis Costello. In fact, the songwriting and sound is so distinctive that, around song ten, you start to feel you've heard it before. Still it's hard to pick out a weak song, and the finale, "Short Western Film," is worth waiting for, sounding like Friends of Dean Martinez covering something from Abbey Road. Wonderfully.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Spending the early '90s slogging it out in New Haven, CT, the Gravel Pit -- lead singer and organist Jed Parish, guitarist Lucky Jackson, bassist Ed Valauskas, and drummer Pete Caldes -- eventually made the leap into the Boston music scene, relocating to the city in 1994. Two years later, their debut album, Manifesto, made a splash on college radio with its melody first pop sensibility and hard-rocking assault on the ears. They followed up Manifesto three years later with Silver...
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Mass Avenue Freeze-Out, The Gravel Pit
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