For the last decade or so my son Max has been in numerous simultaneous bands, based in New York and in Western Massachusetts. He’s played mathy, alt-rock drumming in Tundrastomper, expansive prog/metal landscapes as guitarist in Vishnu Basement, and freaky, polyrhythmic noise-rock in Fred Cracklin, again as drummer, in addition to a host of side projects flowing from scream punk to moody jazz. Then, when a series of circumstances coalesced leading into the beginning of this year, he decided it was time to head west. Alone. Max had lined up a month-long artist’s residency in Los Angeles for March, 2020, and with a VW full of equipment and a head full of maximalist song concepts and high expectations, he headed out to record his debut solo album. Events did not go smoothly upon his arrival; noise complaints, a dodgy landlord, acoustic abnormalities, and the onset of the coronavirus plague, and just three days after arriving in L.A. he was already coming back. 6,000 miles and 90-ish driving hours later, all done by himself, Max reappeared at his rehearsal space in Hadley, Mass. feeling exhausted, disappointed, and a bit defeated. So he changed direction again. Rather than try to record what he’d conceived of as his far-reaching “super-incubated encyclopedia of everything,” he returned, instead, to one of his earliest listening roots: pop/rock music, songs formulated and stylized to leave, as Max described, a first impression of “nice” rather than “challenging.”
If not exactly influenced, Max had been heavily affected by the 2014 album “Dissed And Dismissed” by power-pop synthecist Tony Molina, one of whose overarching motifs was to disregard standard song constructs of multiple verses and a recurrent chorus, but rather to express an idea once and never repeat it. Hence was born this record, released May 8th on indie label Sad Cactus Records, by Maxshh (his sometime artistic pseudonym); 11 tunes covering 24 minutes, on which Max wrote all the songs and notably performed all the instruments and vocals.
Everything is not perfect right now, much remains murky, but Max was searching for a connecting theme of hopefulness, of a place viewable somewhere around the corner where things will simply be…better, for himself as well as for the world. So he settled on the album title “Half A Loaf” (the unstated follow-up to which is obviously “..is better than none”), and for his first single chose track number two, ‘Song For Dad,’ one I can’t help saying was ostensibly inspired by…me.¹ Benefited by receiving an advance, pre-mastered copy of the song, I’ve been listening to it ceaselessly now for weeks and couldn’t be more proud. It’s interestingly melodic, maybe a bit uplifting, and above all, it’s a damn fun listen. Max was apparently somehow impressed by my dime-store wisdom when he’d stopped home for a night following his ill-fated, cross-country odyssey, and I attempted to cheer him as he departed anew by uttering, “Better days ahead,” the line Max chose to sing in cross-concordant, 3-part over-dubbed harmony to conclude this charming 68-second song. Frankly, let’s fucking hope so. But “Half A Loaf” seems like a great start.
¹For the affiliated single artwork (at top), he even chose a little-known Warhol of me from my time hanging at Studio 54 with Andy, Liza and the gang.