Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: War Poets - Hot & Cold: American Relationships

Minneapolis, MN-based War Poets are on a mission and they’re not taking any prisoners. Ever since the release of their expansive, two-disc revelation Dulce Et Decorum Est, the band has continued to churn out new music, wrapping their passion for social justice and equality together with an equal passion for great music. Further supporting that sense of mission is their new label home, Rock the Cause Records, whose efforts go toward creating community involvement through concerts, workshops and releases, a perfect fit for the mission minded band.

For the uninitiated, that band is composed primarily of lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter, Rex Haberman, and bassist/vocalist, Jenny Case, who also serves as musical director. Both artists have had their histories with other bands and recording opportunities but combined have proved to be a force to be reckoned with, their musical talents forming a cohesive unit, cemented with their shared sense of justice as well. The result thus far has been a growing collection of albums that echo with sentiments of protest and a need for change, framed over sounds reminiscent of bands and artists like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Fleetwood Mac, supported by some of the Midwest’s finest session players.

Hot & Cold: American Relationships is the second installment in the duo’s “American Trilogy,” following hot on the trail of American Police State which explored the ideas of gun violence, Native American rights, and the plague of income inequality. This record takes a slightly more personal view, looking into the ups and downs of modern relationships, exploring everything from finding the right person to the unique joys and difficulties shared with love and relationships, something that evolves far beyond an American label.

Tracks like the Case fronted “Bits and Pieces” provides that classic sense of longing, that “sense of mystery waiting for me,” that so many folks find themselves wanting, Haberman’s rich guitar chops cutting a friendly swath through the track, letting Case’s warm and soulful vocals take hold. Haberman carries the rest of the lead vocal load throughout the rest of the record, with “Know the Way” offering up a rambling rhythm and a lyric of promises and commitment, a touch of horn providing some added texture.

“Ones Who Love” is a better fit for Haberman all the way around, letting his vocals express their rich grittiness and his guitars to blast out with some solid crunchiness while “Perfect One” taps into some old school vibes, a strong percussion section laying the foundation for bright guitars and a hopeful lyric. Rich 80s rock gets a solid nod on “Say No More,” Haberman and Case trading vocal duties and harmonizing beautifully while singing of difficult relationship elements before giving way to the rousing questions of “Upside Down,” smooth B-3 fills and churning guitars hammering home the lyric.

On Hot & Cold: American Relationships, War Poets continue to march their multiple messages ahead. This time that message is more of a picture, shining the light on the multiple facets found within relationships, pointing to the hopes, the fears, the pain, and the joy found by all. In those themes, War Poets appeals to a large audience and their solid musicianship just makes the listening all that much easier.

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