Let’s go back in time, to the mid to late 00’s. Back when Myspace was a thing, the emo scene dominated rock music, MTV sometimes played music (?), Myspace was still a thing, and I was a long haired, skinny jean wearing, skater. Now that we’re closing on the 2010’s we’re at that period where our perspective changes on what happened back in the mid to late 00’s. To where, what was once cringey, now becomes endearing.
Listening to Patrick Bates’ Salad Days is like a trip to the past, but one that is more focused on what made the music of the past sound good. Take synthwave or even vaporwave. Nobody at the time thought elevator music, smooth jazz, synths, or lounge music was good at the time. You would literally have to be Nostradamus himself, to predict a future where people would revitalize those musical genres.
So the same principle can apply to rock music of the 00’s. When we think back to rock music of that time period we think of guyliner, emo myspace pages, My Chemical Romance, etc. Even though people can pretend that they were musically sophisticated and listened to the Garage Rock revitalization movement (that totally happened according to Spotify). Most people didn’t. I should know because I was there. All everybody listened to was emo music.
So why do I bring up emo music? Well take a listen to the guitar on this song. Specifically the guitar intro.
Now it has this fast paced, reverbed out, melancholy guitar intro. That was used in almost all of alternative rock back then. The cliche would go that there would be this quiet, intricate, fast paced guitar playing, then followed by some screams, and power chords. It was so overplayed, so overdone, and so overused; that people got sick of it, and hence where the cringe comes from.
So now listen to this song New Deal, you can hear the same type of guitar playing. Almost the same type of vocals. Yet what Patrick Bates does is that like any good artist, he knows how to sieve through the dirt to get to the gold. The fast paced intricate guitar playing was good, it still holds up, but what isn’t good is what follows: the screams, the powerchords, the breakdowns, etc. Patrick Bates understands this, and instead of playing the same formula, he uses the intricate fast paced guitar playing the same way Philip Glass uses his minimalist piano playing–to build a sense of anxiety. The guitar will lead up to somewhere only to go back to square one, we’re desperate for a resolution, then when the drums are introduced the anxiety is only further heightened, and finally when it’s resolved instead of screams we hear an expansive sound. A sound that is layered and nuanced. Which rewards the listener, you can hear the shred of some power chords, bizarre guitar bends that makes it sound like some weird 50’s sci-fi B movie, and expansive vocals that makes the vocals sound almost operatic.
Now that we’re on the subject of emo music, do you know one thing it failed spectacularly at? Making a song danceable. I know as soon as I say this there will be plenty of contrarians that will say, “Oh but this song has a nice groove” and blah blah blah blah I don’t care. Jazzba not only has an incredible groove, but one that is very rare to see in music in general. It’s a Waltz. Don’t believe me? Listen to this. Now this could be accidental. After all, the songs on this album were played live for many years, and I believe it’s because they were played for so many years, that this album sounds so refreshing. Because no matter at what venue you play at, people are going to at least want to dance to your music.
A lot of great bands who cut their teeth playing live all developed their sound playing live. And when you play live, you have to be conscientious of what kind of atmosphere you get when your music is being played. So with the brassy synths, expansive vocals, catchy chorus, stringed instruments, acoustic guitar, all structured as a waltz–it creates a romantic environment. And what do most guys who go to bars want to do? Get laid. How do you get laid? You gotta romance the girl! Yet I’m no mind reader, it’s a question of the chicken and the egg. Was this song developed as something to perform? Or is this song an incredibly great track that just so happens to be performable? I dunno. But what’s undeniable is this track would be incredible to listen to live.
Alright so enough about comparisons to emo music, because even though the album has some call backs, it’s not emo. It’s rock n’ roll. Well technically alternative rock, which is a label that distinguishes modern rock from Dad Rock. So does the music itself rock? Yes.
Alright you want an elaboration, so let’s take the first track S_T. The track doesn’t waste any time, and immediately begins with this wall of sound, that’s both tumultuous and beautiful. Yet at closer listen, you can hear the layers of this track begin to peel off. You can hear the ambient lead guitar, the amazing bass playing, and either is harmonized vocals, or some synth or guitar. Either way you get the picture.
Finally let’s move on from rock music, and go to the electronic portion of the album Fits Like a Glove. With it’s lofi electronic drum beat, warm keys, brilliant piano playing, and amazing duet it’s a pleasure to listen to. But it’s also a track that highlights Patrick Bates’ craftsmanship. Every song is incredibly well made, yet it’s when he breaks the conventions of the genre that he’s playing in that we can see his skill. Most of the time musicians generally get an idea, milk that idea for everything it’s worth, and then they regurgitate that idea in a formulaic way that just limits growth. Yet when a musician gets an idea, refines it, adds his own flair to it, and then releases it–well that’s when the mundane becomes beautiful.
This album is really for the people who listened to mid to late 00’s music, and really miss it. You can only listen to the same old songs for so long before it becomes tiresome. So I IMPLORE you to checkout this album because not only does it grow alternative rock’s soundscape. But it’s just a great album period. If more artists tried to be original (like Patrick Bates), rather than being formulaic, getting a record deal, and churning out garbage–rock music wouldn’t be on life support.
So pretty pretty please listen to this, so rock music can grow and not die. And obviously, for being such a great album, I’m going to give this album my recc.
Also here’s the bonus music video, that you’ll undoubtedly love.