Guitar-driven rock music isn’t completely gone from the pop spectrum, but it’s certainly true that the genre has been forced back into the underground from which it came ripping so many years ago. Although there’s an indie credibility to behold with any quality left-of-the-dial rock release, I don’t get the impression from Andrew Reed & The Liberation that they’re trying to make that their centerpiece in the new single “Don’t Say Goodbye.” Instead, melding gray harmonies with ferocious string play seems to be their aim, and by my measurement, it’s yielding some of the more formidable sounds out of this style in quite some time.
The beat is in the backdrop here, but there isn’t a moment where the percussion feels removed from the big picture. In “Don’t Say Goodbye,” I get the feeling that Reed wants to balance physicality and melodicism as much as possible without developing an evenhanded sonic profile, which requires a lot more dexterity on his part as a frontman than what a lot of his peers are faced with in the studio. He makes it sound pretty effortless, but there’s a chance it would come off a bit more aggressively in a live setting.
While the instrumentation has a dirty sensibility that complements the tonal presence of the harmonies epically well, the lead vocal in this mix is a picture of cleanliness, elegantly situated above the chaos and centered in all of the action. Reed has a really great voice, and he doesn’t have to hold back for us to appreciate his management of these mighty melodies behind him, either; on the contrary, I think his attitude at the microphone is part of the reason why this piece blows up in the chorus as much as it does (and in the best way possible, mind you).
This arrangement gives plenty of the spotlight over to our leading man and his deft control over the aesthetical direction of the music, but there’s no getting around the sheer size and strength of the guitar parts in “Don’t Say Goodbye.” Even when we’re met with an understated break in the rhythm, the six-string is still chugging along with some of the best-defined melodic contributions to this song as a whole. You can’t make this track work with a piano, which isn’t a dig at the compositional wit in Reed’s style; it’s merely an acknowledgment of his role as a rocker, which is one I feel like he was born to play.
Compelling rock n’ roll is a hot commodity to come by in 2022, and Andrew Reed & The Liberation are making it the old-fashioned way in “Don’t Say Goodbye.” This is much of what the previous generation would say the current one needs more of on the FM dial, but I don’t totally endorse the notion that this band is following a retro path. They’re simply trying to keep the tent poles of this aesthetic alive and well into this next decade, and potentially expand its reach to what it was in years past.
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