Band â€â€œ James Marsters
Album â€â€œ Like A Waterfall
Label â€â€œ Brave Vessel Publishing/Self Released
Release date â€â€œ 2007 (bought on Halloween at a convention)
Sounds like â€â€œ Blues-rock, by the way of any act that has appeared at the Bronze between seasons 1-3 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
Appearances can be deceiving and none-more-so than James Marsters, who I always had down as a British punk rocker thanks to his brilliant performance as the peroxide blonde vampire Spike from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. When I found out several years ago that he was actually an American and led a band called Ghost of the Robot, who were Bronze material through and through, I was quite shocked and obviously a massive idiot for realising that this man wasnâ€™t of British descent. Nowadays, Marsters looks less like Billy Idol, and channels the look of a hip-university Dean with a stylish perm, but still has those magnificent cheek bones that you could ski down.
‘Like A Waterfallâ€™ is Marstersâ€™s second solo album and sees the former trenchcoat wearing bloodsucker mix his college pop-rock shenanigans with a heavy dose of the blues. Although from hearing opening track ‘Not A Millionaireâ€™ it seemsÃ‚Â former-William The BloodyÃ‚Â has been listening to far too much Los Campesinos. Handclaps? Check. Twee-as-hell choruses? Check. Gentle soft-rock, bouncy pop melodies that are as catchy as hell? Check. The complete unexpected nature of this opener lends a certain charm and youthful exuberance to proceedings that are quite out of character, yet rather brilliant. Even the little â€œyeaaahhh yeah!â€Â harmonies inject a lazy, summery vibe. On ‘Donâ€™t Worry Sonâ€™ and ‘Birth of the Bluesâ€™ Marsters attempts to emulate Jon Spencer. To some extent, he achieves this by exuding the similar arrogance and strut of the Blues Explosion frontman. The rather bizarre garbled vocals on the latter (which Iâ€™m guessing are Marstersâ€™ attempt an emulating a professional blues musician) however should have been cut â€â€œ they lack any real meaning and add a cringing element to proceedings. However, the melody and guitar-work, whilst a standard blues-riff, is admirable, especially ‘Donâ€™t Worry Sonâ€™ which sounds like something that would soundtrack a sleepy cop drama series, blasting from the speakers of the grizzled protagonist and his quest for order and peace in a small mining community.
‘Looking At Youâ€™ has a She & Him vibe â€â€œ soft indie rock, with Melissa Giattino (stage performer according to google) providing some pleasant female-backing vocals to the country-twang of Marstersâ€™s almost Southern-drawl and Creedence-instrumental backing.
The intro to ‘White Hot Girlsâ€™ shares many similarities to ‘Kick Out The Jamsâ€™ (and strangely ‘Love Everybodyâ€™ by POTUSA), albeit sounding cleaner and tighter, whilst the main body of the song has Marsters take on the suave, debonair nature of a strutting rock star and appears to channel the cocky arrogance of a certain blonde vampire.
‘Louiseâ€™ is Radio Sunnydale to the max; featuring the kind of catchy, bouncing guitar jaunt that is infectious as it is cheesy. However, when the song finally kicks into gear with its 70s riffs, wailing chords and stubborn drum patterns itâ€™s ultimately rewarding, if a little short.
‘When I Was A Babyâ€™ steers the listener back on to the ‘bluesâ€™ element, with the songâ€™s subject matter focusing mainly on the discovery of the genre and getting to grips with playing and adapting to itâ€™s style. Marsters does a fair job; his voice hums with the same drive and passion, dipping from a deep sombre rumble, to a yelping, strangled wail. Although, I canâ€™t help feel if his voice was a little harsher, more ragged in its delivery, then it would send shivers up the listenerâ€™s spine, rather than a faint tingle. The laid-back surf-guitar riff, heavy-saxophone parp and scattered drum beats give the track a jazz-vibe of improvised meandering and complement the vocal lead.
It might just be my imagination or my want for Marsters to dip into his English accent again, but ‘London Cityâ€™ certainly has that Brit-twang bubbling on the surface, especially the opening verse. Itâ€™s again, another relaxed affair, showing the smooth, gracious tone of his voice, offset by gentle pop-harmony. ‘Up On Meâ€™ follows a similar path, albeit less atmospheric-pop, but with the addition of a well-crafted guitar solo.
Ultimately, ‘Like A Waterfallâ€™ is a strong second album from James Marsters; containing the right amount of hooks, memorable choruses and some interesting variations in style that could divide the opinion of the fans of his earlier work, but I guess this is the process a musician goes through in order to develop and expand their sound. Recommended (if you can find it that is!)
By Ross Macdonald