The L.A.-based rock combo The Henry Clay People were the darlings of the blogosphere for a time in the wake of their 2008 album For Cheap or for Free. With their punkish sensibilities and lead singer Joey Siara’s somehow appealing style of yell-singing (he out-Finns Craig Finn of the Hold Steady in that department), the Henry Clay People sound like something refreshingly different — but it’s also telling that if you stick their track “You Can Be Timeless” into your iTunes “Genius” function, it tends to turn up songs by Bruce Springsteen, Marshall Crenshaw, The Kinks and Tom Petty.
For their new album, Somewhere on the Golden Coast, the band has honed even further their ability to hold onto those influences while plowing headlong into the future with a clean, literate, joyously noisy sound that bodes well for the direction of rock ’n’ roll — if we’re lucky.
The band’s punk bona fides are present right off the bat with “Nobody Taught Us to Quit,” a one-minute raver with a message of dedicated slackerism. “Nobody taught us to quit, but we were learning pretty quick,” Siara intones, before segueing into a big-guitar ode to just getting by, “Working Part Time”: “We were banking on the kindness of strangers, and loved ones, and those that fall between, to give us everything we need,” he sings, “because we need everything.”
As appealing as their message of enthusiastic hedonism is, it would be nothing without Joey and brother Andy Siara’s gorgeous guitar work — these guys knew what Chuck Berry meant when he sang about playing a guitar like ringing a bell. It’s not hard to hear shades of Mike Campbell, George Harrison and Lou Reed on “Golden Coast,” but the brothers make the sound their own as they complement each other on soaring dueling-axe tracks like the single “Slow Burn.”
If you haven’t pumped your fist (or cracked a beer) by the time they get to a full-on keyboard-driven rave-up on “End Of An Empire,” it’s time for a blood pressure check. The band has a sensitive side too — “We are damaged goods; we are damaged but we’re still good,” they sing on the nostalgic “A Temporary Fix” — but the majority of the no-filler 34 minutes of Somewhere on the Golden Coast is a loud, driving dedication to rock ’n’ roll’s propensity for keeping us from working too hard. And they don’t sound anywhere near ready to quit, either.