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“Missing Pieces” by Singer/Songwriter Chris McCooey

At once reminiscent of the growling tonal menace of early alternative rock and perhaps something even further toward the center of the dial on the singer/songwriter front, Chris McCooey’s fretwork in the new album Missing Pieces is probably the biggest reason it left me hypnotized upon hearing it for the first time. For the past ten years, good guitar rock with a strong lyrical center has been inconceivably hard to come by, but McCooey seems to understand this and goes out of his way to revive the best parts of classic, blues-inspired commentary without intentionally reliving any of the past in Missing Pieces. In tracks like the pummeling “Home to Me,” heavy “Bigger Than the Both of Us,” and even the San Francisco-stylized “On My Way Back Home,” the melodies are his best friend and most trusted source of poetic balance.  

Missing Pieces features a far less insular feel than the majority of new indie content I’ve reviewed in this past year, but it isn’t lacking in a sharp introspective edge you’ll hear in any authentic pop recordings made in this period. This edge leaves the rather elegant “Well Well” sounding incredibly ominous and feeling just a little surreal beside the conventionality of a truly thoughtful number like “Raise the Roof.” Rather than fantasizing about worlds inaccessible to us, Chris McCooey is taking us on a wandering adventure through the scenes that live inside of his mind; each of their stories is arguably representative of a different facet within his multilayered style of music.  

Let me be blunt here; there’s no escaping the roots element in this record, from the patient “Home to Me” to the rip-roar anthems that surround it. Even if I didn’t know McCooey’s background and previous works ahead of listening to Missing Pieces, I think it’s obvious in this material just how big an impact classic rock has had on his writing style and general approach to recording. He’s carrying the weight of an understated legacy even when he’s sweating sonic bullets ala “Just Like You” or laying out harmony-clad ribbonry like he was born to do so in “So Complicated,” and I don’t think you have to be an expert critic to pick up on the sincerity behind the aesthetic in this setting at all.  

issing Pieces is an eclectic and at times suffocating effort from Chris McCooey, but while it’s not mainstream by any measurement, its charisma couldn’t exist outside of the underground element from which it took so much inspiration. McCooey isn’t an outright rebel per se, but he’s a resistor whose reverence and scorn for the detached presence of his contemporaries in American indie rock has produced a lot of pent-up angst in years past, and in this record, he’s letting all of that frustration go in seven supremely stimulating songs. He sounds more creatively focused than other players venturing down a similar path in 2022 have, and all in all I would rank this latest release as one of the smarter solo offerings of its kind debuting out of the west coast this winter. 

Mindy McCall

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