As an experienced international pop rock act, The Vegetarians understand the particular flavors and combinations of popular music that the world craves and demands in the early 21st century. They understand this so well in fact, that they won’t be heard within the modern structures of the world they play to. Fortunately this comparatively small hiccup won’t stop them from their honorable pursuit. Formed in the late ‘90s by Swede Hans Annellsson and American John Marshall Gibbs, the duo have collaborated on three previous releases before delivering A Vegetable Radio Soup. The four song EP is a fun tour de force through multiple styles of pop that blend seamlessly into one another through the use of strong songwriting and expert production techniques. The eclectic duo’s short offering is sure to please fans of diverse and all-embracing forms of contemporary music.
Beginning things with a bang, The Vegetarians, with the help of Pelle Jernryd on guitar and Nate Zane on trumpet, stomp and nimbly tiptoe their way through “(Carry On) River Of Life.” Starting with a heavy and distorted bass playing a funky pattern against a backdrop of electronic beats, the song immediately grabs a hold of the audience’s imagination and prepares all willing passengers for a crazy ride. A happy cacophony of sound ensues as guitar, organ, percussion, Zane’s muted trumpet, and background vocals provide the tonal pallet of space and color needed for the Robert Plant-like lead vocals. The song moves and sways between hard driving verses and halfway laid back yet commanding choruses, with flourishes of slide guitar and muted trumpet lines that are reminiscent of a forever hip Miles Davis in his ‘80s crossover period.
Next up, and assuredly not to disappoint is, “Drifting.” A funny baritone robot voice sings an R&B aria with minimal electro beats until a wah treated bass leads the whole ensemble into the groovy meat of the song. The party’s in full swing as ‘70s funk harmonies glide over a deep, rutted out groove that is so funky and mean, it threatens to trip up the very band playing it, but like an aged broken in pair of platform shoes dancing in lockstep time, the groove majestically throbs as the central heartbeat of the song. While it’s probably criminal to compare the EP’s third song to a familiar Swedish pop group of yesteryear, it’s also a valid comparison as well as a high compliment. “Thunder & Rain” exudes a positivity and charm that will lighten up anyone’s day. Comforting synthesizers and warm vocals are part of the verse, and eventual buildup to a joyful chorus that cradles and soothes with its message.
For the last song, “Space & Time,” The Vegetarians go postmodern. There’s a slide guitar tonality that eerily echoes David Lindley’s work on Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty” and “You Love The Thunder”, as well as a singing tone that recalls a whiney Tom Petty-like voice on an off day, with an added Jon Bon Jovi-esque east coast accented style that tries really hard to pull off a southwestern drawl in a cool way, but just like Jon’s vocals, aren’t believable. Second generation vocals aside, the song is decent and acceptable, but merely a weak closer when compared to its three predecessors.
A Vegetable Radio Soup is a strong and professionally crafted EP that doesn’t need the time to grow on one’s tastebuds like a disagreeable vegetable. As musicians and songwriters, The Vegetarians go far beyond the constricted wasteland of FM friendly pop, and consequentially reach for the exciting and boundless possibilities that the pop music genre has to offer. The duo have creatively marked their territory outside of the territory they inhabit, thus finding themselves in a place that is remote, and not easily heard within the hearing range of the sort of mass appeal they might desire. Nevertheless, this position will insure their imaginative risk taking with a legacy that will be cherished by a few appreciative fans, and see their music endure the constantly haphazard, disposable onslaught of trendy fads around them.
Review by Stafford Davis
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)