The image portrayed by this group’s name always conjures up CIA couriers, dark suits, Russian machine pistols and black Opps conspiracies galore. They’re a secret underworld act of sorts, broadcasting their sound to the masses with their own frequency and gaining new legions by the score. They are the dark, texture heavy specter we’ve come to know as Agency.
Led by the charismatic Brian Saint, Agency has rallied once again with their latest CD release at Mattison Park in Asbury Park last month and entitled Revolutions, a powerhouse of aural graffiti that hits you right between the eyes with multi directional expressions. Agency is a band that can play Mattisons’ small-but-well-outfitted room with ease, using dynamics and low volume along with Grammy Award winner Tom Ruff of Asbury Media manning the board in the crowded room.
With a whopping 15 songs, the band showcased the CD with tunes including “Ours,” an atmospheric rocker born from the influence of U2 and The Smiths filled with grungy guitar riffage and powerhouse vocals over the top of double bass drum bridges and bass shots. Often compared to U2, Agency really doesn’t seem concerned with that comparison as they blaze much more vividly than U2 could ever hope to. But I do see some similarities in songs like “Went Looking,” where Saint at times enters those sonic sound registers so close to his influential idols.
“One For Us” leans heavily towards college radio alternative (is that still a term?) Featuring strong melody and that sparkling Fender sound that reminds me of WHTG glory days, “Intact” shows cool dynamic changes, going from Afghan Wigs-vibed verses to intricate and swirling bridge passages, chorused guitars, open voices and subtle rhythm builds. The dynamics kick back and forth into the chorus before flying into Scotto’s orbital wah fest. “Get Up” features remnants of Jellyfish and has Saints voice roughly distorted, grinding the meat of the song while Scotto’s Joy Division guitar lines sizzle the gristle on this primordial psycho-soup romp.
The group really shines on “Transient,” a laid-back semi ballad loaded with cool little wah wah lead lines, harmonic feedback and guitar voicings. Brian Saint’s voice is powerful but smooth as hell all over the top of this radio-friendly number. Mike Thompson and Joe Savio are some of the best back beat rhythm guys in the business and they nail it here all day long.
“Leave It Alone” steps into that gray area that every band has doubt about. The ballad. Agency does a good job here and Saint gets to show a much different side singing wise. I’m not a fan of plugged-in acoustics, but the composition is solid and not embarrassing, as most ballads seem to end up being. Other cool highlights were “Come Back Together” with comet-like guitar shots and echo-plectic deviations. Michael Scotto is well known as a guitarist of much substance and he shows his prowess at the pedal as well, playing them like instruments on top of the instrument—pretty cool stuff.
Savio pushes the band on the supercharged “Mother Of Devils” once again featuring Michael Scotto throwing out single line guitar jags before getting joined by the Saint attack. Scotto trills and drones note after cascading note from his digital domain with a practiced and rhythmic sensibility. “Indifferent” is an orchestrated piece that takes the band out like a drawing wave to the last song, doing it in stages, playing out and into my favorite song on the disk as well as live, “Relocating,” a complex builder with the catchiest of machine gun drums, choruses, blanketed with arabesque guitar, and bass under the direction of Brian Saint’s vocal.
I credit this band for continuing to push their unique envelope. In a time of ever changing rules and stylistic copycats, the true rock and roll band is one of the last traditions we have left in music. Agency is a group that has successfully held fast as a unit and I hope they stay around for a lot longer. I think Agency is a band that needs a proper producer for the next record, as their ideas require outside views but Revolution is a bold and charmingly dark statement that has sent the proper code formations to the interceptors here at headquarters and we read Agency loud and clear.
Go see Agency live on Sept. 26 at McGuinn’s Place on 1781 Brunswick Pike, Lawrenceville, NJ, where the band will be playing a cancer benefit (all proceeds going to the Susan G. Komen Foundation). This will be a special three-piece version of Agency without their fearless leader, Brian “The Woodsman” Saint. A good cause all should support! Door prizes will be given out and a DJ will be spinning records from 6-9 p.m.. myspace.com/agencymusic.