Pasta Sauce Exchange is a three-piece band from New Brunswick, New Jersey. Made up of Tom DeMarco on guitar and vocals, who met with Andy Laufer, on bass, in 2015. After trying out some drummers for a couple years, the pair welcomed Mike LaMattina and after playing for a while, released their debut album Open Your Eyes in September of this year. The album’s songs range from ska and reggae to psychedelic rock, from smooth jazzy rock to tight upbeat rock. As for songwriting, some songs were written years ago by DeMarco, some were written weeks before recording, and some were written and learned by several different drummers. The trio have been compared to The Police, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Sublime. With sharp reggae, funk and metal influences, Pasta Sauce Exchange serves up a blend of styles that some describe as “alternative rock with a splash funk and reggae.”
The opening track “Fate” starts with a creamy, warm sound – smooth and mellow, but funky and danceable at the same time. I could hear Sublime influence here, but the solo guitar parts bring an element of contemporary soul flavor which contrasted nicely with the funky rhythms of bass and drums. Next is “Anywhere” – a jumpy tune that moves along fast, with some fantastic tight breaks in between the verse. I loved LaMattina’s work on the hi-hat and the backing vocals by Laufer, I’m guessing.
“Shoulda Coulda Woulda” starts off good and funky with plenty of reggae and funk beats. This one to me is comparable to the Chili Peppers, in the way it’s delivered lyrically and how the instruments were played. The saxophone adds a nice touch too, reminding me of a local favorite Midwest band back in the day – Fat Rudy. The next tune has an amusing title – “Asshole First” – and it’s a slower song from the get-go, but with a rather likable melody. Adding elements of psychedelic, alternative pop rock and a metal ballad guitar, this instrumental adds great variety to the band’s debut. The trio amps up the song’s tempo, adding another great and unexpected twist.
“Open Your Eyes” reminded me of a cross between Sublime and Madness, showcasing both old and new influences. The guitar solos brought an added spark to the contrasted styles. The band switches things up with their beats, reminded me of the old punk/reggae-jam sessions of The Police. “Be Free” sounds like a pretty straightforward pop rock song with likable style, giving the listener another good take on what this band can do. “Slippy McJanglez” is a song that serves up styles of funk, rock and pop with a title that sounds like the name of some character, and perhaps it is.
The last tune “All the Time (Outro)” is a dreamy, soft number where the guitar melodies reminded me of the soft rock of the ‘70s and where the repeating lyrical format made me think of a lesser known, but no less brilliant B-side from The Police – a beautiful song in every way. Apart from the flawless, recording chops of J.R. Sanson at Bullet Proof Recording Studio and mastering technique of Kevin Reeves at Universal Music Group, Pasta Sauce Exchange really made an impression on me. This band has great chemistry and it amazes me how three-piece bands can sound just as full and rich as a four, or five piece one. I’ll be looking forward to their follow up.
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