The 90’s produced some of the best guitar rock bands that seem all too seldom in this day and age. Bands like Weezer (at least early Weezer), The Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana provided us with three-four minute power pop guitar rock that sounds just as good today as it did 20 years ago! Like these bands, The Passenger is a like-minded band whose roots align with the 90’s mentality. On their latest album entitled A Dog Named Bear they showcase seven songs that, while not quite up to par with the best bands of the 90’s, have a solid foundation of good songwriting, infectious hooks and anthemic choruses that get implanted in your brain.
Forming in the summer of 2011 they sound as if they have been together much longer than that. The Passenger is a five-piece band with Nick Kussack (vocals, guitar), Bennett Newsome (guitar, vocals), Will Brotz III (bass), Manny Monteagudo (keys) and Beau Rothman (drums). It should also be noted that the album sounds professionally polished thanks to Ed Rose and his mixing abilities.
The album starts with “Pile of Bones” which is a meditation on our temporary existence and that despite its rather bleak subject matter has a ridiculously catchy chorus that is as anthemic as it is infectious. “Down and Out” could be a Weezer outtake if you didn’t know any better with it’s vocals harmonizing, Kussack’s Rivers Cuomo type tone and inviting, warm guitar sounds. Possibly the most modern sounding and commercially viable song is “When It All Went Down” a decent song that while a bit predictable and sticks to the soft verse/loud chorus mentality shows us again that these guys know how to write a pop song. “Killer Fashion” while sticking to their preferred format seems to have some more emotional resonance than some of their other tunes. I also thoroughly enjoyed the playful little synth on this one – nice touch.
The album closes with “Favors & Questions” which seemed to encapsulate what these guys were good at; anthemic chorus, solid guitar riffs and a tip of the hat to the guitar bands of the 90’s While this band sometimes veers a little to the side of music I might want to forget this is a seldom occurrence. Overall, A Dog Named Bear should satisfy those who have a thirst for solid 90’s inspired power pop with a modern twist.
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