Doug Zambon and his crew have graced this page in the past. I reviewed their 2014 release, Stuck In New York City, which was produced by Stacy O’Dell, as well as their 2015 release, Jumping At Shadows, and was quite impressed with the recordings and their overall sound, arrangement prowess and compositional capabilities. Jumping At Shadows was the first Pete Steinkopf-produced project, and that union has taken the band to many high places, and they continue to draw new fans and reviews while playing all over the Tri-State Area and beyond.
Their Facebook page describes their passion for “George Jones, Johnny Cash, and a whole lot of bands w/loud guitars & big drums.” That descriptive continues to come alive on their brand new disc, leaving several positive impressions on both myself and the soon-to-be receptive music populace. The Vansaders are traditional in their passion for excavating real rock sounds and find new avenues of creative outlet.
Their latest musical offering is This Time Around and once again Bouncing Souls kingpin Pete Steinkopf is manning the helm. Steinkopf’s understanding of composition and arrangement makes him the perfect individual for churning out vital and cutting edge rock and roll music. Steinkopf has produced or engineered diverse artists such as Brian Fallon, Organ Thieves, Northcote, Bouncing Souls, The Menzingers and many others.
The Vansaders have honed their sound and paired everything down to their best five songs for this EP. Utilizing solid production values and a rich understanding of songwriting and attitude, The Vansaders continue their streak of hard-hitting, addictive rock and roll music. I took a listen to the latest disc and came up with a few opinions on the compositional wonderment that this band has in spades.
First up is a song called “I Don’t Care, She Don’t Mind.” Coming out of the gate like a bull in a rodeo, “I Don’t Care, She Don’t Mind” chugs and snorts with guitar fury and musical delight. Guitar riffs flow with combinations of single note runs and involved driving chords as Zambon croons to beat the band. If you’re a fan of Gaslight Anthem you are going to love this song. Fast, energetic and full of life, it lasts a whole 1:30 before suddenly disappearing. Parties, love interests and plenty of boozing is the subject matter here. The middle-eight is quick and addictively stable before the band comes back to button it up for the end.
“Long Lost” is up next. The band takes it down a mere smidgeon to focus on a decidedly pop-tinged piece dedicated to the loss of love. Zambon and Deaglan Howlett mix it up on guitar with a great combination that delivers power and melodic punch for days on end. Kyle Zupancic (bass) and Jay Maranzino (drums) keep things nailed down where they need to be without overplaying or becoming mundane or over busy. The song itself is well written and flourishes in the pop rock genre of bands such as Green Day or Blink-182 (when they were good). Zambon is a skilled vocalist who knows when and where to deliver the belt to push the song into its next phase. If there is a hit song on the disc, this could be the one.
“Moving Home” cruises out of the speakers next. Dealing with the situation of life’s shortcomings and the exultations of long gone memories, the song is layered in catchy choruses that could go on for days and days. “Moving Home” sings in its original way and it does so with pure style. Zambon uses melodic vocal skill here as he does throughout and it makes this another sure-fire winner in my book. Zambon and Howlett are seasoned harmonizers and work well together as both singers and guitarists.
“Dancing In The Dark” comes next. Far from the original song you might be thinking of, The Vansaders’ version of this Springsteen classic is embroiled in punk rock attitude and a frenetic pace that puts it back on my musical radar. The band tears through a quick-paced delivery that puts spark back into the original song penned by the boss. Background vocals do their “whoa whoa” thing as Howlett and Zambon rip jagged swaths of distortion-laced goodness throughout the piece. Their rendition is modern, fiery and in keeping with the traditional roots of the Jersey Shore gods of yesteryear. Not bad, not bad at all.
The last song on this too little disc is called “The Fire That Burns.” Utilizing shuffled and rhythmic guitars, when the band kicks in it’s a skiffle-inspired chug session from hell. Verses are aired out and full of space as Zambon sings over the top of tight bass and drum work courtesy of Zupancic and Maranzino. Guitars flow free and high above the rhythm section, spewing spirals of tube-fueled glory from beginning to end. Zambon’s lyrical search for a saving grace is spot on and reminds me of Brian Fallon’s work. Howlett breaks out with a fury of lead guitar grit at around 1:40 and takes the tune into Zambon’s next quieted verse before the band blows it wide open as they head for the ending of the song.
This is the third disc that I’ve covered for The Vansaders, and each is better than the last. Combining excellent songwriting with tremendous performance and stellar production puts This Time Around on my top list for 2016 summer releases. If you get a chance, go to the band website and request your copy now. Better yet, see them live.
They will be playing the inside stage at The Stone Pony this Saturday, Aug. 20, opening for Flogging Molly and Frank Turner and Chuck Ragan, who will be outside on the Summer Stage. They go on before the outside shenanigans start so check their site and the Stone Pony website for show time. The Vansaders will also be appearing over at The Asbury Park Yacht Club on Sept. 10.