The Celebrated Workingman, Juniper Tar and Testa Rosa
Monday, June 30, 2008
Music history is filled with great dropped ideas, and the
1990s, in particular, were rife with them. Milwaukee’s Testa
Rosa picks up some of these loose ends, continuing where bands like
Belly, That Dog, Throwing Muses or pretty much any other band that ever
featured Tanya Donelly or one of the Haden triplets left off. Allusions to the
’90s abound: The guitars adhere to the same strum-and-squall dynamic of ’90s
alterna-pop; Betty Blexrud-Strigens cough-syrup-smooth vocals evoke Kim Deal;
the hazy bass riff on “Ollie Delilah” nods to Weezer’s iconic “Only in Dreams”
riff. This isn’t to say they’re just s’90s revivalists, though. They write
powerful, stripped-down ball
There’s little to say about Milwaukee’s excellent Juniper Tar that hasn’t already been said: They sing relaxed, rustic rock songs with Bryds-esque four-part harmonies that inevitably give way to blistering, crashing, tag-team guitar send-offs. It’s a formula that actually pays off better for Juniper Tar than it has for Wilco, whose recent albums toy with a more extreme but less satisfying soft/loud dynamic.
It’s hard not to think of that climactic scene in High Fidelity where Jack Black finally unveils his band when watching The Celebrated Workingman, the indie-rock band fronted by Mark Waldoch, long a familiar face at Milwaukee’s answer to Championship Vinyl, Atomic Records. With excitable hand gestures and popped eyes, he conducted his band with Hold Steady-ish cheer, leading them through a boisterous set of triumphant drums and wild, winding guitars. His enthusiasm was contagious.