A unique take on the concept of a road trip album that takes risks that pay off more often than not.
The songs on One Eleven Heavy’s third album ‘Poolside’ may initially seem to conjure up the idea of the great American road trip with their drug-fuelled recollections of life seen travelling, but if you’re looking for the type of songs that see tortured souls looking to find themselves on the journey, you might want to look elsewhere. “It’s not one of those brooding, scorched-desert paeans to one’s own masculinity, or whatever,” vocalist Nick Mitchell Maiato said of the album, instead asserting that it’s more of “a kind of gothic western album”, which in truth sounds far more interesting than another ‘On the Road’ pastiche.
“That river made me shiver / Just like a tyrant king / I thought I’d die in that hole / But here I am, snug, at The Rhino Inn,” comes Mitchell Maito on ‘Tyrant King’, his voice lilted with a distinctive but charming nasal warble (think Tom Petty with a touch of Randy Newman if he did 00s indie) as he sings alongside some impressive guitar riffs of a mysterious escaped criminal. ’Plinth’, a hazy tale heavy with 1970s-era psychedelic rock guitar, combines perhaps two of the most unlikely adjacent name checks possible: The Fall’s Mark E Smith and the Fall Guy’s Lee Majors (“We had a good time, didn’t we / Watching TV with the sound up high / When you mixed up Lee Majors with Mark E Smith / Cuz I said I liked The Fall Guy”).
‘Treasure’ conjures up a number of interesting stories against a piano heavy backdrop: There’s “the man who invented flying machines” tormented with the sounds he produced, a Christian scientist who disapproves of his friends use of medicines, and a woman in distress who knows that she can’t afford the hospital care she needs. ‘Fruit Loops’ is a sprawling epic of a being, clocking in at eight minutes and thirty-three second in length, and it sees Mitchell Maisto wondering if he’s really the problem (“Think nothing of it, mollify your mind / You’re just fine, maybe I’m the fruit loop”) against slick electric guitar and piano that builds to a crescendo before dissolving into something more chaotic.
“Last time I saw you, you were quite a mess / Dragging a waterbed up South Van Ness / You could return to the compound any day / But you don’t wanna win that way,” recalls Mitchell Maiato on ‘Rizzo in the Wig’, a track that even flirts with electronica at points, adding to the utterly spaced out feel of a song that recalls a rebound coke binge. ‘Cici (If You Want To)’ takes a 50s rockabilly beat and throws a bunch of fun cultural touchstones from different eras into the mix (there’s M*A*S*H and Taxi along with songs as varied as ‘Don’t Make My Brown Eyes Blue’ and ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’), while ‘Michael Landon’ takes a look at the surprisingly interesting history of coastal mountain roads.
Sure, as accounts of road trips go, ‘Poolside’ might not sit happily with everyone, but if a jaunty tale regarding sasquatches crossing the Alabama state line into Florida (‘Bama Yeti’) sounds a lot more fun to you than the worn down path of a lost spirit trying to find themselves, it might just be a trip worth taking.