The Grey Agents - Last Generation
Anyone valuing adult songwriting popping with youthful energy, accomplished musicianship within a band context that never demands a spotlight, and a classic sense of how to build an album will find a lot to like on The Grey Agents’ Last Generation. It’s the second studio release from the West Virginia five piece but breaks with their debut in the area of instrumental presentation. Their first album, Classified Misinformation, featured a two guitar configuration, but the band experienced difficulties finding the right fit for that slot and eventually opted to invite saxophonist Phil Wyatt to join the band. The move brings a lot of strengths to the band’s musical presentation, but a key change occurring as a result of him joining the band is that their sound is much more their own than ever before. His singing talents bring a new dimension to the band’s presentation as well. Make no mistake, however, that the critical factors that made Classified Misinformation such a winning effort remain in effect with Last Generation. The Grey Agents are a band that’s found the sound capable of carrying them through what will hopefully be a long and rewarding run.
Last Generation is definitely packed with its share of five star pop rock tunes. There are no throwaways; The Grey Agents are sure to imbue each of these songs with a distinctive singer/songwriter sensibility that’s a cut above typical fodder in this vein. Some of the songs are distinguished by their lyrical content and individual performances while still sounding like loving pastiches of their influences; you definitely can detect the hold early Elvis Costello exerts over the songwriting imagination on tunes like “She’s Everything to Me”, “The Murder Farm (Hammer to the Head)”, and other tunes. It would not be fair or correct to dub the tunes imitative because there is a difference. “She’s Everything to Me” strikes a note of familiarity that’s never uncomfortable; instead, the inevitability of its sound and musical turns satisfies you because The Grey Agents do it so damn well. Primary songwriter Brian Cottrill has a penchant for crafting strong choruses that’s particularly highlighted on the album’s second song “The Underdog” and his performing partnership with other members in the band, specifically keyboard player and multi-instrumentalist Davin Seamon and saxophonist Phil Wyatt, constitute the main colors in the band’s musical tapestry.
Bassist John Farmer’s song “Vicious” is one of the album’s darker numbers lyrically and his vocal faces the song down in a matter of fact way before unleashing with plaintive emotion during the bridge. The grinding arrangement is particularly appropriate for the subject matter while Wyatt and Seamon’s organ blend in all the needed instrumental color. “Last Generation on the Planet” and “The Celebration of the Stars” are a great pairing with each other since, in essence, they take a withering look at different sides of human folly and there’s plenty of dark humor laced through both tunes to soften their deep sarcastic bite. Bob Workman’s vocal on the title song is a perfect choice for those duties. Last Generation ends with the wah-wah spiked funk workout “President Liar” and the slowly broiling indignation in the heart of the song comes throughout without ever being an unpleasant listen and really takes off for the chorus. It isn’t a note perfect second album, but it’s difficult to not hear how the band sounds much more confident going forward from this point. Whatever naysayers may nitpick, The Grey Agents’ Last Generation is one of the more involving rock releases to emerge in 2018.