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Clear vision

Will Phalen & The Stereo Addicts -
Visions and Revisions

(Sub-Urban Arts Collective)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Dec. 24, 2007
Will Phalen

Review by Tony Bonyata

One of the things that excites me in this crazy business of music is when, out of the blue, I hear an unknown (at least to me) live act that pricks my ear and makes me take notice. Such was the case when I witnessed Milwaukeean Will Phalen & The Stereo Addicts recently open for songbird Martha Berner.

The band's engaging and often raucous live set immediately led me to their debut effort Visions and Revisions, and after only one listen I was glad to be introduced with this act properly on record. On it singer/songwriter Phalen explores the often-traversed roads of Americana roots music, blues and rock, but does so with a clear vision as he maps outs his own path. The musician admittedly taps into what the late, great alt-country pioneer Gram Parsons originally dubbed "Cosmic American Music," and this is most evident on tracks such as the slow burn of "Thankfully," which blends atmospheric guitar tones over a pleasing melody, along with the psychedelic blues rock of "Lower Down," which not only embodies the scorching swagger of Neil Young's Crazy Horse, but Phalen also successfully channels the hipster vocal drawl of Dinosaur Jr's J. Mascis on this barnburner of a track.

The album is filled with an array of other gems such as "Lazy Sundays," featuring the bright and jaunty banjo of former Decibully alumni Eric "Doc" Holliday, as well as the Tom Petty-esque "How I Am" and the decidedly more introspective numbers "Book" and "Some Recompense," the latter which shows that he's got more than just country and folk-rock pumping through his veins as he sings, "I've got all kinds of punk bands thrashing 'round my head." Surprisingly, Phalen also incorporates a small piece of atmospheric guitar looping and feedback on "Electronic Folk / Digital Voodoo," which actually turns out to be closer to Brian Eno's ambient experimentation than that of Parsons' own cosmic country. It may sound like filler, but it somehow manages to add another interesting hue into Phalen's already colorful palette.

Discovering an act like this both onstage and on record only proves one thing to me - I gotta get out more often.

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