By Chad Hoyle (@chadillacgrilz)
In many cases, describing an album as a mix of various musical influences isn’t necessarily a positive. When describing The Time Was Right, the new album from San Francisco’s Tone of Arc, it refers to completely the opposite. Derrick Boyd, a self-proclaimed “Dr. Frankenstein”, with his literal and figurative “bride” Zoe Presnick, have drawn on a multitude of sources and have molded them together in way that reminds yet never overpowers, in turn creating one of the freshest sounding albums I’ve come across in a long time.
Boyd, who previously recorded under the moniker “Dead Seal,” and his wife Presnick, have created a figurative musical monster by delicately combining genres such as early punk, new wave electronic, and bass-laden funk into a sound that feels very unique to the pair. In fact, the musical evolution comes on like a wave through the album, which starts out sounding like a minimalist spiritual successor to LCD Soundsystem, merges into something akin to The Clash, hits on Bowie and the Talking Heads, and ultimately evolves into something that would be comfortable on the shores of Ibiza.
For the uninformed listener who drops the needle on TOA’s first groove, “Surrender” gives the impression that the band is born from the same Brooklyn vein as the Black Keys or James Murphy, but the progression soon shifts gears into a superb homage to 70’s disco Bowie with “Love Kissed.” From there, one of the stand-out tracks of the album, “Chalk Hill,” opts for a bass-slapping groove with vocals that channel the spirit of Joe Strummer. The funk continues through the next few tracks before tonally shifting to the best sound of the 80’s with incredibly faithful yet upgraded cover of Q Lazzarus’ “Goodbye Horses,” easily one of the album’s best tracks. However, Boyd has rightfully stated that the title track is the “snake head of the album… untouchably the widest reaching song on the album [that] just about anyone can get into…”
WHAT THE WIFE THINKS: The wife was unfortunately out of town this week, dining on the heavenly sandwiches of the Brothers Primanti in the Burg of Pitt. Alas, ladies, she will not opine.
Although each song is a musical journey that stands up firmly on its own, the whole is certainly greater than the sum of its parts. This synergy may be an outcome of the musicians’ personal relationship, or a result of Boyd’s unrelenting passion for organic creation. He personally makes all of the sounds, whether through the use of live instruments or synthesizers, and never relies on dubs or prefabricated loops. Referring to his wife, Boyd declares that “Zoe balances all my work with her input and strong female power and unique, effortless voice,” deeming her an invaluable part of the creative process.
Not every track is a home run, but an album is in great shape when song comparisons aren't made good to bad, but least to most favorite. Too often we, as critics or fans, go into an album with a preconceived notion based on a band’s previous work. The lack of pretense or expectation for the album, of which I had heard little about, gave me a blank slate from which to form my opinion, and allowed me to be genuinely surprised by the progression of the sound. The Time Was Right goes against my own disdain for genre mashing and cover songs, but executes impeccably. Boyd, of the track “The Time was Right,” has said “every great album needs a song that makes the artist wonder if they can do better ever again. I have no idea if that is true, but we are so inspired to make so many more tracks that are comparable to it or better.” With the bar already set high, expect greater things to come from Tone of Arc.
Rating: 8.5 / 10