Connections, “Private Airplane”
Anyway Records, 2013
Take a quick glance at the cover of Connections’ debut LP and you’ll surely notice a hot pink biplane soaring across an empty sky. It’s a seemingly calculated piece of iconography that links this record to Dayton, OH, the birthplace of aviation and the ancestral home of legendary Ohio rockers Guided By Voices. Located an hour east via I-70, in the relative metropolis of Columbus, this group of local music scene veterans have managed to channel the same sort of energy that Robert Pollard and company began tapping into almost 30 years ago.
For singer Kevin Elliot and guitarist Andy Hampel, the association is far from superficial. Four track recordings made by the pair’s high school band 84 Nash found their way into the hands of Pollard, resulting in the release of their debut full length on GBV’s own Rockathon Records in 1998. Drummer Adam Elliot’s group Times New Viking toured alongside the recently reunited ‘classic lineup.’ And if their previous musical output is any indication, guitarist Dave Capaldi (of El Jesus de Magico) and bassist Philip Kim (of Andrew Graham & Swarming Branch) have definitely listened to Bee Thousand.
Private Airplane possesses a sort of polished scruffiness, echoing the lo-fi roots of some of its key personnel without assaulting your ears with distorted blasts of tape hiss. The thrashing chords of “Miller’s Grove” and noisy hooks of “Casuals” sound as if they were written in beer can-strewn basements and hastily recorded using equipment identical to that which birthed albums like Under the Bushes Under the Stars. By the same token, short, divergent interludes like “Sister City” and “Capital of Strange Cravings” might have been fleshed out over the course of a few smoke breaks. And while Kevin Elliot may not have Uncle Bob’s vocal presence, the band’s unison delivery shares the consistent aspiration of treating a Thursday night bar crowd like a densely packed arena.
That’s not to say that Connections are entirely derivative of their most conspicuous influence. From the woozy chords of “Cindy” to the earnest sentimentality of “I Can Fix Memories,” the group consistently finds new ways to wrap their thoughts into succinct, pop-indebted rock songs. There’s a visceral feel to the half hour of music presented on the album, divided into bite-sized pieces that, while easily digestible on their own, are enhanced when placed in the context of the record itself. It’s a testament to Adam Smith’s production work which along with Adam Elliott’s understated rhythms, help unify the LP’s 15 varying tracks into a cohesive whole.
Amid all the muddy guitar tones and muffled cymbal crashes, there’s a palpable sense of midwestern nostalgia that finds the group’s romanticized small town recollections clashing with contemporary urban realities. It’s a source of inspiration that easily lends itself to uncovering universal truths, much like those exposed by their elders down the road in Dayton. Boarding their Private Airplanes, Connections achieve catharsis through a very specific strain of concise musical expression, giving a salty salute to their forbearers while proving that the club is still open.
You can find this record at your finest local record store.