Seattle's has a secret musical powerhouse and they're called Bakelite 78.
Bakelite 78's name is a manifesto onto itself, referring to early plastic records.
And What the Moon Has Done is loaded with vintage sounds. Hell the disc starts off with "The Cat's Meow" which the casual listener would be sure was pulled off of some dusty and (perfectly) scratched up old LP that was rescued from some over-packed antique store. But it is not. The ditty is penned by Robert Rial, Bakelite 78's founder, vocalist and guitarist.
Rial clearly knows his way through vintage Americana.
What the Moon Has Done harkens back to a time where the boundaries between city and country were not so neatly drawn, where tales of adoration and songs of desolation stood side-by-side in the setlist of any given roadhouse performer. As such the songs found here are potent concoctions of proto-country, stylish blues, vintage jazz and early-jump rock. Rial is a vocal changeling, shifting the tenor of his voice for each song like a finely-honed scalpel.
Just as the tunes come from a place simultaneously urban and rural so do the subjects come from that twilit area, that "darkness on the edge of town"*, where our reality meets something more primal. Robert's tunes cover sexy ladies ("Cat's Meow"), werewolves (the amazing title track), disasters both intimate (the mining tragedy of "Monongah") and epic (California crumbling into the sea in "Las Vegas Lament"), gleeful sexual adventures ("Aurora Ave Motel")**, serial killing (a reworking of his classic "The World's Fair Hotel"), to drunk debauchery ("Country Cruisin'"). Each song is a gem and Rial's vocals bring each song home.
But what makes this collection so powerful is that Robert isn't alone in leading Bakelite 78.
Just when you think you've got a handle on the band a song pops up that has been written and sung by piano-player Erin Jordan. I loved the CD she put out a few years ago with her group The Whiskey Romance and her star continues to shine here.
Her songs are filled with the varities of personal life rollercoastering from the tragic to the heroic, all done in her breathtaking lounge-blues chanteuse style.
The combination of these two talent performers makes Bakelite 78 a band impossible to dismiss.
Of course they're smart enough to pack the band with remarkably good performers: Steven Baz sure as hell knows his way around his small but tight drum-set, Erik Reed comes in as perfect punctuation with his trumpet work and Austin Quist shines with his bass work (and contributes the melancholy number "Dark Spot", which I find myself singing all the time).
This may be the third album released under the Bakelite 78 moniker but this is a whole new band, and this outstanding set is the perfect place to join in on the party.