Album Review: Snake! Snake! Snakes! – “Tranquillo”

It’s been nearly six years since Phoenix Arizona based Snake! Snake! Snakes! Has released new music and while the band has obviously made significant changes in that time they are still a band that is more than willing to fall back into their wheelhouse to entertain their loyal, and growing, fan base.

One of the biggest changes Tres Snakes has made in the better part of a decade since they last released a record is replacing keys players Georgie Rodriguez with lead guitarist Dan Tripp. The shift changed Snakes! Entire musical aesthetic, but just to keep things consistent for the first track on their new record Tranquillo the four piece rock ‘n roll outfit turned too Rodriguez to provide just a little more sonic variety on the tune.

“Mantra” is the first song off of the musical masterpiece and while the dual guitar approach of Tripp and lead singer Jonathon Messenger is more than enough to fill in the track along with bass player Chris Sanchez and drummer David Cooper. Rodriguez’s keys paying not only brings the sound back to that of their debut self titled E.P. But it also adds a certain light heartedness to the opening track that much of the rest of the record lacks. While Rodriguez may not be on stage with the Snakers every night he did make a special appearance at the record release party at Phoenix’s premier venue Crescent Ballroom, and I think any member of the group would admit he will always be at least an honorary Snake.

Track two, “In My Head,” is in the proto-punk style that has become extremely popular over the last five years or so. It has a very old school feel too it with guitar riffs that feel like they could be coming straight from the late 1950’s and drum raps to match it. But then goes straight into harder edged punk rock break down’s mid song. It’s the kind of tune that Snakes! Fans have come to expect because while it all falls under the umbrella of rock ‘n roll it still brings a variety of genre’s into one very well written track about that ex – partner you just can’t get out of your thoughts.

On the album’s third tune “O’Death” Messenger starts it out with an opening that sounds just a bit like folk music, which is very likely an influence from Tripp whoseother project Field Tripp melds folk with alt rock to create their signature sound. The Tripper is actually such a folk fan that he once released an entire Woody Guthrie cover album entitled Would He. Past the opening the song goes in a distinctly surf rock direction including a retro sounding electric organ which gives the whole track a really dreaming sounding effect that compliments the Coopers drum rhythms extremely well during the guitar solos.

“War Song” is the first cut on the record that really jumps right in with loud, fast, and heavy guitars and really gives Tripp a chance to open up and show off some of his chops on the six string. It’s also the first track on the record where Cooper, affectionately known as “Coop,” by his bandmates is able to bring some of his heavy handedness onto the drum track. His rhythm’s along with Tripp’s leads on “War Song” are seamless and even though Tripp is the shortest tenured Snake he obviously has a particular chemistry with Cooper.

While the lyrical content may not seem consistent with most punk as Messenger sings over and over “I believe in the war,” it’s not the Middle East that the often shy rocker is signing about. The track is about fighting for the things you think are worth fight for.

n Phoenix Tres Snake has become fairly well known for their The Strokes cover sets and of all the tracks on the album it’s “Travelin” that shows off Messengers Julian Casablancaness more than any other. With plenty of reverb on the mic and a proto-punk backing track from the fellas Messenger sings out an old story about that girl you just can’t get away from even if you try because you’re meant to wind up with her.

Next up is “Washed Out,” a song that’s working title was “Fuzz Song” and for obvious reasons. The guitars were quite liberal with their use of the fuzz pedal on this one and it’s also the first one with noticeable vocal harmonies provided by Tripp, Sanchez, and Cooper. It’s just the three musicians adding so high pitched “woo’s” but for an album that until that point was all Messenger it really helps to add some different vocal tones.

“I Want Your Blood” is the track to me that sounds the most like a hit on Snakes! New record, it has a simple and easy to sing along too chorus and of all the track’s which are all fairly personal stories from Messenger’s life it is probably the most relateable. It’s a story about Messenger’s time being homeless in his late teens and early 20’s and how he felt outcasted by his high school friends who all moved on to ordinary college lifestyles. While everyone may not know exactly what being homeless feels like, I feel safe in saying just about everyone knows how it feels to feel as though you don’t belong, and be angry about it.

“Sentimental Life” is another track where Coop is able to fully articulate his heavy handedness on the drums and the rest of the players are able to add a few “ooooh’s” to the mix. It’s got a really heavy rock ‘n roll tone too it and like all Snakes! Tracks a copious amount of reverb. It may be the slowest song on the album and the vibe of it lands somewhere between slow dancing at the prom and a slow head bang.

Messenger keeps a pretty even keel vocally throughout the recording until it gets to “Dead N Dumb.” For the album’s ninth track the reserved 31 – year – old finally breaks out vocally and stretches those voice muscles. For much of the track he does maintain his signature drone, but toward the middle he changes things up with a big rebel howl. The song, like “War Song” jumps right into a rousing upbeat punk tune. “I wish I wasn’t a loser now, bored man, make your mother proud” another easiy relatable feeling from Messenger whose own bandmate Tripp, an accomplished songwriter himself, called one of the best songwriters he knows.

Another slow number “I Know You Best” is a song that Messenger really wails his way through both on guitar and vocals. This is a performer who used to play out at shows in a hood and sunglasses, and he really shows some emotion on the albums tenth track.

“Wasted Time” is another one that starts off with a feel that is almost folk, but then rockets into a fast paced rock ‘n roll tune with heavy breakdowns and heavier guitars. Messenger’s fuzzed out voice really stands out on the track and guitarist Dan Tripp takes the song as opportunity to really show some energy in his guitar performance. It’s a loud and raucous track and really breaths life into the end of the record.

The album closes on a down tempo with “Hanging on a Wall” and goes in a more blues direction the entire rest of the record. It’s a solid way to close out a very good piece of music. A soft and quiet guitar solo, Messenger’s droning voice, and an ever so subtle raps on the tambourine bring “Tranquillo” to a very chill close.

4/5 Stars

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