Founding Fathers, “Rapid Transit”
I’ve read a lot on the topic of increasingly non-geographical musical landscapes. Those days of 70’s, 80’s, or even 90’s scenes in cities across the country spawning great bands, venues, labels that shaped my own musical development have been replaced by an internet age where the concept of belonging to a geographic place of permanence is less necessary. Bands pack up and head to Brooklyn, Chicago, Portland, or Austin leaving behind hometown music scenes that may not exist as strongly anymore or they may have had little involvement in. One of Aquabear’s goals has always been to focus on that strong geographic permanence of the state of Ohio and the great music and art in produces. Now before I start getting all philosophical about my work with Aquabear Legion I will promise you that this introductory paragraph has something to do with this record review.
Founding Fathers new album Rapid Transit has an LP insert with an old promotional map of Northeast Ohio with the slogan “Rapid Transit is Rapid Growth!” across the top. Below the map are the following words: WRITTEN, RECORDED, MASTERED, CUT, PRINTED, AND PRESSED IN CLEVELAND, OHIO. The album’s name itself coming from city’s public transportation system of rail and bus, a photo of which graces the cover (by Rose Marancil and painted by Jake Kelly). This record is a great example of why the concept of geography plays an important role in the creative pursuits of musicians that reside in that community. Its songs take a journey around Cleveland’s musical past, present, and future not unlike the Rapid Transit system itself. Growing up in Lorain (west of Cleveland) I spent a lot of time listening to bands from the area during my formative years and there was also something about bands from Cleveland that I never could put a finger on. Founding Fathers are made up of some of Cleveland’s most talented folks: John Neely and Stanton Thatcher played together in Tokyo Storm Warning and Neely and fellow John (Kalman) worked at the Grog Shop for years and Kalman’s band Roue still remains of the city’s most missed projects. The three are joined on bass by Carol Schumacher Yachanin (Tough & Lovely, Reigning Sound, Detroit Cobras) and together create a pretty amazing record from start to finish.
Rapid Transit sounds immediately familiar drawing on touchstones ranging from Archers of Loaf and Dinosaur Jr. but with a heavy dose of a certain sound that comes from the geographic influence mentioned earlier. A lot of that feeling also comes courtesy of Paul Maccarrone (formely of the legendary Zombie Proof Studios and currently of The Black Eye) who recorded and mixed this record (along a long list of other Cleveland essentials over the years). Opener “Flower Plower” storms out of the gate but its the second song “Sailing Stones” that is the standout for me, recalling for me mid 90’s Yo La Tengo with several moments of perfect harmonization that only come along once in a great while. Songs like “Latest American Hero”, “Secret Win”, and “Dancey Pants” are carried by riffs that switch back and forth, soaring and angling into each other drawing to mind other Cleveland bands of days past like Sun God, Machine Go Boom, The Franchise, and State of Ohio. “Chasing Shadows” is a fitting end to the record leaving the listener with just a few more melodies and progressions to hum along to the rest of the day.
There is always something great happening musically in Cleveland but lately it seems as if new music and new projects or coming out all the time. New bands with familiar friends (The Safeties, Classic Sand, Palaces, and more) are popping up and the Lottery League is readying itself again to mix up some of the city’s finest musicians into a whole new crop of bands. This city is full of some of the most talented people I have ever met and they all seem to be putting out some incredible stuff these days, with the potential of more and more to come. I highly recommend this album.