Phillip Michael Vasiliades – Crashed Dreamed Boomed (2012)

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Australian Phillip Michael Vasiliades shows a stirring command of the power and joy of 1970s pop and rock on Crashed Dreamed Boomed, and he does it without ever sounding derivative.

He begins with the riff-filled, grinding “Alluvial Plain,” adding sweeping strings and then a barking vocal. Guitarist Ric Wong is the early star here, playing with a feel that is by turns scalding and then atmospheric – an approach that recalls Neal Schon’s best work Journey nearly four decades ago. Vasiliades’ bass work provides a deep foundation from which to launch cascading solo after solo. The tune then opens up into a hooky vista, as Vasiliades modulates his vocal into a pleasing croon. Soon, Wong hits another smart flourish, though, and Vasiliades’ group is off and running again. The subsequent “Bangalow” settles into a loping, shag-carpeted groove, made complete by the warm saxophone musings of saxophonist Jeff Mead. That and Vasiliades’ vocal, now sweetly furtive where it was gritty and confrontational before, bring to mind nothing so much as the forgotten pop brilliance of ’70s-period star Gerry Rafferty.

Wong downshifts into a contemplative acoustic guitar figure for “Live My Life,” as Thompson’s quietly insistent rhythm pushes the track along without overpowering its sense of sad reverie. Vasiliades continues to reveal deeper, darker textures in his singing, sounding utterly defeated at times here. Mead, with just a few quick exhalations on the clarinet, and multi-instrumentalist Malcolm McMahon brilliantly add to the nostalgic, dreamlike atmosphere. “Happy Ending” then bursts out with a muscular power-pop, Knack-sounding thump – and a perfectly executed winking sarcasm to boot. Wong provides a sweeping feedback, and Thompson wails away, even as Vasiliades makes use of a series of vocal effects in order to rise above the gathering maelstrom. “Too Many Times,” meanwhile, kicks into a stamping, steel-toed groove and never lets up. Vasiliades plays it straight here, singing with vengeful force.

“Underpants Model” has the kind of honking sax signature and happy-go-lucky groove that its title would suggest – and it’s made complete by Vasiliades’ perfectly snippy attitude, as he conveys a series of sizzling put downs. Thompson (who rose to fame with the Strangers) is also to be commended for the way he handles Vasiliades’ complex rhythm signature, speeding up and then deftly slowing through a series of narrative – and musical – twists and turns. Thompson and Vasiliades have worked together for some 16 years, and their musical symbiosis is well illustrated here. “All Around the World” finds Mead again on the clarinet, as Vasiliades explores a lyric focusing on the horizon-less mysteries of a globe-circling trip on the high seas. Vasiliades uses the endless nights at sea as a brilliant metaphor for the loneliness we all can feel, even in a crowded world.

There’s an angular, crunchy verve to “Road Warrior,” as Wong tears into his instrument over a thumping bass figure from Vasiliades. If “All Around the World” found his main character so very far away from the familiar, “Road Warrior” has him celebrating that same nomadic existence. As Vasiliades barks “Get out of my way!,” the song grinds to a complete stop for a moment – before quickly leaping back to life. Wong’s stratospheric licks echo that sense that nothing is going to stop this guy. Vasiliades begins singing “Let Me Back In Your Heart” amidst some chatter from an apparently uninterested audience, underscoring his essential aloneness. When the band rejoins him, the track rejoins the same friendly vibe of “Bangalow,” this time echoing the polyester-era pop-rock of Little River Band. Wong then unleashes a Badfinger-inspired opening riff on “So Sun,” as Vasiliades more fully explores the higher end of his vocal range.

Crashed Dreamed Boomed ends with a lengthy reexamination of its opening track, called “Alluvial Plain Reprise.” In fact, the second take is nearly half a minute longer than the first. But the initial track’s muscular attack is replaced by a melancholy sense of reminiscence, underscoring once more the varied talents of Vasiliades and Co. – and their ability to reanimate, and then to expand upon, a bygone era.

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