Case Hop Tally’s self-titled debut Case Hop Tally is four songs, which have their footing in blues rock. The album itself is a bit of a bildungsroman, which follows the fictitious character of Case Hop Tally as he returns home after being away for a while.
Case Hop Tally opens with “Tunnelvision” a sort of twang-y alt country blues affair that sets the story on its way. But the narrative, if one can call it such, is written in the style of a novice lyricist. It’s a trap that’s easy to fall into, especially beginners and Manburg is no exception to this rule. Take the opening lines “Come inside and take off your coat / It's so cold and wet and grey but yet bearable / Your eyes are telling me they already know.” Already know what? I kept asking myself. The listener is not privy to any information about the understood “you” of the song. Furthermore as the song moves the lyrics become even more jarring. I only remark on this somewhat harshly because “Tunnelvision” and the subsequent songs on Case Hop Tally could have told the story in a plain narrative and perhaps been very wonderful. I’ve never been to Alaska or worked in a canning factory, though I can imagine the details of that grueling life to be great fodder for a song if told in plain English.
To his credit Manburg makes up for this faux pas on the brooding and bluesy “Res Bay” as he sings, “Humpy spawning in the sound today / Swims against the dawning current / Ends up on a dock with her head chopped off / Back of the line to be sold in a box.” Here Marburg’s vocals exhibit a bit of the precisely placed power that Isaac Brock employs when not screaming his lungs out.
Next on the piecemeal “Media Luna” Case Hop Tally seems to be making up the song as they go along. It’s five minutes of changeups and a lot of pretty, slow riffs and skits of drum, but it is one of those songs that, as pleasant as it sounds just seems like a whole lot of white space. The EP closes with the alt country blues tune “Slingshot” which seems like it was written to take the album out on a high note, but compared to the rest of the EP is like a bastard stepchild.
If Case Hop Tally chooses to continue down this road of country blues rock they’d be wise to listen to some of the genres auteurs in order to get a better sense of what that style of music can offer.
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