Audio Mixers: Al Carlson; Soldiers of Fortune.
Recording information: Gary's Electric Studio, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (2013-2014).
While they love to spout their talking points about how they're an "anti-band," the truth about Soldiers of Fortune -- the noisy and chaotic indie rock supergroup featuring members of Interpol, Oneida, Chavez, and Endless Boogie -- is a little less glamorous. Soldiers of Fortune are a jam band, pure and simple, but unlike 90-percent of acts that fit that description, SoF have no use for laid-back, Grateful Dead-styled noodling; instead, these guys stomp their way through hard rock- and boogie-influenced changes (with a dash of punk for seasoning) until they happen upon something like a melody, and then hone in on it and try to shape the mass of guitars and drums into something like a proper song. At least that's what the members of Soldiers of Fortune have to say about their work, and their second album, 2015's Early Risers, sure sounds like it came together that way. The tunes are streamlined but feature plenty of guitar heroics, busy drumming, and left-field synthesizer squalls, and the lyrics often sound like an afterthought, though the vocals are often wildly impassioned. Early Risers is the sound of hip rock dudes kicking out the jams, even if they're loathe to call it that, and most of Early Risers is pretty satisfying. In time-honored open jam tradition, the longest track, "Santa Monica," is also the one that wears out its welcome first, but the punky buzz of "Nails," the amphetamine prog rock of "Pure Shame," and the soulful bluesy workout of "Fatigues" are all loose but focused enough to make for a proper get-down. And Soldiers of Fortune got the idea of bringing in some guest vocalists to wail along for these sessions. Stephen Malkmus' blues-wailing "Campus Swagger" and Matt McAuley's stylish but dramatic "Kall Mi Kaos" help give the tunes some welcome form, direction, and distinct personality. Maybe Soldiers of Fortune aren't a band, but they know how to rock, and Early Risers shows they can do that even with tongue in cheek and hipster cred in check, making the achievement all the more impressive. ~ Mark Deming