REVIEW: The Insurance Salesmen/Dortmunder Gold

Death of the Insurance Salesmen cover art

It isn’t that hard to put out an album for people. Technology can allow for instant gratification of new music. It is a great thing, but I find that it can make finding new, awesome bands a little overwhelming. But it makes finding hidden gems that much more special.

This week’s case in point: The Insurance Salesmen’s latest, Death Of The Insurance Salesmen. If you don’t live in Cleveland proper, you may not have gotten an easy opportunity to stumble upon this band. Which is, to quote John Waters, a dirty shame. The band is made up of a group of fantastic, multi-dimensional musicians. Yes, it’s a guitar-driven record, but the splashes of horns, harmonica, and the great machine that is the Hammond organ add color and detail.

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There is a riff in the first song “Absolutely Fireproof” that reckons me to think of “96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians. I’m not sure why, but it is definitely not a bad thing. It certainly showcases the organ playing.

“Partying On” could be described as Andrew WK’s oeuvre in a song with lyrics like “when the sun goes down forever, we’ll be partying on”. Additionally, those lines pretty much sum up the record. It’s one that you could put on at a party going to the apocalypse; one that might cause the end of the world to be met with the best dance party ever.

“The Monorail Doors Opened Up” is kind of a freaky song, with a long buildup to each chorus, which makes it feel like the listener is getting abducted into an alien party. Organ-playing aliens, but still. Considering their last record has a pair of malicious chalices on it, it’s clear that the Salesmen fly their freak flag with pride, and frankly, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Death Of The Insurance Salesmen does have an overall 60s surf rock/AM gold vibe. However, unlike so many “indie” bands that seem forced and contrived to me, the Insurance Salesmen are pure and genuine in their efforts.

Does all of that sound good? Check out the record yourself, and also check out my trip to Cleveland that I took last summer, and see if it doesn’t make you want to check out the Rock and Roll Capital of the country yourself!

THE BREW: Dortmunder Gold- Great Lakes Brewing Company

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Brewing since 1988, the Conway brothers of Cleveland Ohio have been mastering their craft for over 25 years. Lagers are tough, but when made well, they are delicious. In my opinion, they really are the original session beers. Dortmunder Gold was one of the first beers that Great Lakes brewed, and it was quickly proven to be a well-made beer, winning its first gold medal at the 1990 Great American Beer Festival and several more at the World Beer Championships in more recent years. It’s fairly simple for ingredients- with two hop varietals, Cascade and Mt. Hood, and two malts (Harrington 2-Row and Caramel 60). So it tastes slightly sweet, and will have some familiar flavors, but it’s very drinkable.

THE PAIRING:

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I wanted to choose a beer that was local to the Cleveland area for this one. Great Lakes Brewing is only distributed in about 15 states across the country. So like the Salesmen, their beers can be a hidden gem if you don’t live in a state that widely distributes it. Where it is found, however, The Dortmunder Gold lager is accessible to the masses. When I went to Cleveland, I found it in many bars, not just ones that specifically stressed craft beer. Although the Salesmen definitely have a sound that would appeal to those of the indie rock/college radio persuasion, I feel like just about anyone could find some positivity in their tunes.

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Single And A Pint: Dance, Charlatan!/ST Hop Sun

Single And A Pint pairs a new song with a new beer I’ve recently tried.
This week is a single which I’m pretty familiar with, from a band I know well from the area, Dance, Charlatan!. Kyle, Mark, and Pete make up the indie rock trio from Wallingford, Connecticut and did a little Q&A with me. Check out their song below and then see what they have to say about upcoming shows and their favorite craft beer!
THE SONG: “Held At Bay”, Dance, Charlatan!
THE BEER: Hop Sun- Southern Tier Brewing Company
Picture taken by Now Beer This at Now That’s Class, Cleveland OH.
I’ve been looking for Southern Tier’s Hop Sun all summer(not that hard, mind you), and only found it on Labor Day weekend, generally the last party weekend of summer. It’s a wheat beer, but it has enough hop flavor on the finish to attract someone like myself who often shies away from sweet-tasting wheat beers. Crisp and lemony, I do wish I had tried this beer with more summer weather to spare. I drank this one from a bottle at a punk rock club where I didn’t want to risk breaking glassware, so I can’t comment on this brew’s appearance.
As far as a pairing goes, Hop Sun would definitely pair well with seeing Dance, Charlatan! live. They have a ton of energy on stage that radiates into the crowd, and new audience members are often left pleasantly surprised at what they just heard. In that way, I was pleasantly surprised with this beer, and it’s light enough to go with a set of dancing!
Q&A:

You have released a single, “Held At Bay”. When can we expect an EP or full-length album from you guys?

Soon! We’re going back into the studio as soon as possible. We hope to have an EP out in autumn.
Where did you do the recording for this single?
The single was actually recorded at a church/recording studio in Trumbull, CT. The drums were tracked in the room where the sermons take place. It was weird. But it was mixed and mastered at Adorea Studios in Hamden. Where we’re planning on recording our next project.
Photo from Dance, Charlatan’s Facebook.
I know you guys are all pretty busy, but what is the likelihood for a future tour?
We would love to plan a tour eventually to promote this EP. It’s just a matter of finding the right time and another band to join us. Definitely not ruling it out.
You guys have recently played at some local craft beer bars, specifically The Outer Space and Knuckleheads. What’s the Dance, Charlatan craft beer of choice?
Kyle: I’ve been really into the Coffeehouse Porter by BBC lately.
Mark: I’m really into 668, but I got my hands on some Ghandi Bot last night and it was beautiful.
Peter J: Yin Stout by Evil Twin Brewing.
If you could sit down and have a beer with any musician who would it be?
Kyle: Tough question. I’d like to have a beer with Debbie Harry from Blondie. She seems fun.
Mark: Hmm. I’m thinking Yannis Philippakis of Foals. Seems like pretty a cool dude.
Peter J: Dave Grohl. He’s out of his mind in the best way and he’s a huge influence.
What does Dance Charlatan mean anyway?

It doesn’t really mean anything in particular. We really liked the word “charlatan”. It means an impostor or a swindler. Then we thought we should give that charlatan a command. And what’s better than dancing?

I can’t think of a better response than that. You can find out where to dance to the Charlatan by following them on Facebook and Twitter

REVIEW: Neko Case “The Worse Things Get…”/Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout

THE RECORD: Neko Case The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You-  2013 Anti-

I was so excited when the first two tracks from Neko Case’s latest record were available on Spotify, and even more excited when I listened to them and they were AWESOME. This is a wonderful record. The lyrics resonate well with me, and most likely anyone else who has ever loved and lost (so you know, pretty much everyone). “Night Still Comes”, which you can check out the lyric video for below, is my favorite track on the record. The refrain of “You never held it at the right angle” is just one example of the quotable lyric mantras found throughout the album.

“Man” picks up the pace a bit. There are a lot of little nuances on this song that I find to be reminiscent of math rock, such as the complex drumming and the clean, quick guitar riffs. The lyrics reiterate the fact that Neko Case is, in fact, a total badass “you didn’t know what a man was until I showed you”.

I think that’s why I think Case is so great, because she blends such strong lyrics with such beautiful musical orchestration. In so many pieces of music, the strength lies more with either the music or the lyrics, but Case manages to maintain a balance of both on this record.

The vocals are very cool on “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu”, oscillating between a single voice and chorus. The simplicity makes this song truly beautiful. “Where Did I Leave That Fire” is similarly beautiful, with soundscapes at the beginning that sound like field recordings in the woods. The soft brushes on the drums give the imagery of feet on the forest floor.

Basically, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You makes me want to write better songs. It’s a quietly inspirational, while being easy to listen to.

THE BEER: Wolaver’s Organic Oatmeal Stout- Middlebury, VT

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This beer is delicious, and one of my favorite varieties, the oatmeal stout. Delicious flavors of coffee and dark chocolate, with some earthy notes in the aroma. Slightly hoppy, to balance out the sweet flavors.

Pours a deep espresso color, with a cream-colored head. Really awesome with food, looking forward to drinking it with some beer-brats and smoky cheeses.

THE PAIRING: I chose a beer from the state Neko Case resides in, Vermont. She pretty much lives in my dream house, which you can take a tour of here.

Neko’s latest is an album you can sit with. Even though it’s only August, the already falling leaves and pumpkin beers lining the shelves tell us that autumn is on its way. We can get back to drinking frothy oatmeal stouts and curling up with a good record that has great lyrics that you can reflect upon. Preferably while sitting in a room like this.