What the hell ever happened to good ol' rock-and-roll? There are so many bands around the world who classify their sound as alt-rock, indie-rock, math-rock, post-rock, muffin-rock, hollow-fake-stone-where-you-hide-the-extra-key-rock, x-rock-where-x-equals-any-prefix-of-your-choice...but where's the plain ol' no-prefixes-needed rock? Apparently, it's been hiding in Boston, where long-time guitarist and songwriter David Vaccaro has been hoarding it in his basement since the '70s. Fortunately, he's blown the dust and cobwebs off of it, polished it up, and released a hefty chunk of that old-time rock-and-roll under the name V-project (MySpace).
Boston native Vaccaro has quite the rock pedigree. He's been playing in various bands since the late '70s, such as Oz, Capital Gains, and Siberia, but only began releasing music as V-Project in 2001 with the well-received acoustic album Lost Demos. For V-project's second effort, New Machine, Vaccaro has plugged in and cranked the amp up to 11. Along with collaborator Robin McAuley, the former vocalist of MSG, Vaccaro has produced ten tracks of pure, uncut rock that clearly hearkens back to the glory days of the '70s and '80s without sounding particularly dated. Rock is eternal, no matter how many prefixes other people slap on to it, and because of that, V-Machine has the same timeless feel as KISS, The Scorpions, Mötley Crüe, George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers, and Stevie Ray Vaughn.
New Machine is pure oldskool rock from beginning to end. Vaccaro defines his sound as "Jimmy Page meets Joe Walsh with a little Cheap Trick thrown in for good measure," and he is spot-on in his assessment. "Exit Sign" starts the album off on the right foot by opening with some classic riffs that immediately bring to mind the opening chords of Van Halen's debut album, and most of the tracks follow its lead, but Vaccaro occasionally shows a more adventurous side, such as on "Desert Run," a driving instrumental track that features chugging synths, an acoustic guitar solo with a pronounced southwestern flavor and fiery electric guitar work that reminds me a lot of Steve Vai. "You Don't Care" is another Latin-textured song that features stirring string arrangements and a thoroughly ass-kicking chorus, and "Back To My Baby" is a classic hard-rock ballad of love lost that would make Poison or Cinderella jealous. My favorite track, though, is "The Stake," a cover of one of my favorite Steve Miller Band songs which gives the song a bit of a more modern flavor while still remaining very close to the original.
And here's just an interesting little tidbit of information that might give you a second's pause: all of the drums on the album are programmed. That's right--there are no live drummers on this album: all of the beats were programmed by David Vaccaro himself. (In fact, all of the instruments on this album, save for the strings on "You Don't Care" and the sax on "Back To My Baby," are played or programmed by Vaccaro.) What's really cool about the drums, though, is that they do not in any way sound programmed. As a drum programmer myself, let me tell you: that is not an easy feat to achieve. Even with programs like BFD and Battery, both of which have extensive libraries of sampled acoustic drumkits, it's still a major achievement to design drum tracks that sound as though they were recorded by a guy in spandex shorts and a tiger-striped wifebeater rockin' out on the skins. Dave, if you're reading this, leave a comment telling me how the hell you did it!
At any rate, if you're looking for a *-rock album that explores the entire spectrum of musical possibilities, then New Machine is probably going to sound a little claustrophobic. But if you want an album that doesn't play any games, but simply ROCKS, then New Machine is it. I better see some lighters being held high out there in the audience for this one!