Handclaps. Sing-alongs. Jangly guitars. It’s been weird to hear Josh Berwanger‘s songs on develop live over the last year or so, and then hear them in their final, polished form on Strange Stains. Some of the songs here are so much different that it almost takes a moment to get what you’re listening to.
“Mary,” for instance, has this chunky guitar riff live that, on album, becomes strummed acoustic guitar. It goes from power-pop to something almost folksy in its recorded form — all stomps and hanclaps. While that power-pop live version is killer, the folksy rendention just shows the strength of Berwanger’s songs — the presentation can change entirely, and I’ll still love ’em.
“Baby Loses Her Mind” has been the centerpiece of the Berwanger live shows, and it’s much the same here. With it’s Tom Petty-esque chorus, and the way the instruments drop out at one point, just leaving vocals and handclaps? It’s fucking magic. Like the majority of the tracks on Strange Stains, there’s an AM-radio vocal effect, just adding to the album’s timeless quality.
“All Night Long” could’ve been written at any point since 1960, really — it’s one of those songs like “Someday, Someway” by Marshall Crenshaw or Nick Lowe’s “Cruel to Be Kind,” reaching all the way back to the Everly Brothers and proto rock to create a song that sound simultaneously familiar and refreshingly new.
Dig the amazing front cover by Jay Shaw, as well. He’s known for his work with Mondo and Death Waltz, and it’s cool to see his style applied to something unique, rather than an interpretation of someone else’s work for once. Not going to lie, though — the name on the front of Strange Stains is Josh Berwanger, but the live shows have featured both the names Berwanger and the Josh Berwanger Band, and it’s fucking confusing. Pick a name, dude.
I kid. Regardless of the name, you should totally snag a copy of Strange Stains from the Goodland Records store. There’s a pre-order LP version, limited to 100 copies on red vinyl you might be able to snag if you get your order in before it gets released tomorrow.