Max Fite – Shake It On Down

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  1. Melody Bot

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    We’ve been hearing for years that “rock is dead,” but let’s just be honest: 2016 has been a damn fine year for rock music. Between new classics from the likes of Butch Walker and Jimmy Eat World, a Green Day album that was better than I ever expected a Green Day album would be in 2016, a sterling goodbye from Yellowcard, another strong round of emo releases led by The Hotelier, and the most ambitious Dawes album yet, 2016 has been the best year for rock in recent memory.

    You can add Max Fite’s Shake It On Down to the list. An up-and-coming outfit from the Los Angeles area, Max Fite strike an effective balance between garage rock, 1990s brit pop, and whiskey-soaked southern rock. Held together by the voice of frontman Max Fitelson—who himself sounds like a mix between Craig Finn (The Hold Steady) and Noel Gallagher (Oasis), the band’s collision of different sounds coheres surprisingly well.

    Not that every song is a triumph. This six-song collection sounds like a debut work—the work of a band that isn’t quite sure where it wants to go in the future. Punchy mid-album rockers like “Shake It on Down” and “My Own Fantasy” don’t have a ton to offer melodically, but thrive off some truly arena-worthy guitar solos and full-band performances. In an age when rock bands seem to be getting smaller in sound—whether to try to fit on the radio or simply to avoid losing the interest of guitar-averse fans—it’s nice to hear a band turn up the amplifiers and play. There’s no doubt that these guys have chops.

    Still, those two numbers are so-so songs held together by stellar musicianship. When the band hits on genuinely great songs—as on the stirring opener “The Devil in Me”—the musicality and writing combine into star-making recordings. Sounding like a missing cut from the classic Oasis debut album Definitely Maybe, “The Devil in Me” is the kind of rock song that bands don’t write anymore. With a riff that is lifted almost directly from the Definitely Maybe cut “Up in the Sky,” “Devil” chronicles the loss of innocence that follows us as we grow up. “I wonder just what they’ll say/About me when I pass away,” Fitelson muses on the second verse, hitting upon a troubling message: we all start life off as good and pure, but not many of us are worthy of those descriptors when we die. In a year that’s been fraught with a lot of evil and darkness, this track feels oddly haunting and prescient.

    “The Devil in Me” is certainly the highlight of Shake It On Down, but the last two tracks are signs of just how good this band could be as well. The penultimate number, “Time to Heal,” is a jangly folk rocker that contends with loss and resignation, while closer “Yes Man” is a blazing punk-flavored jam with some echoes of early Gaslight Anthem. Even “Court Jester,” despite some slightly hokey lyrics, thrives thanks to some killer slide guitar work and a late-song double-time breakdown.

    Max Fite occasionally stumble into the common clichés of hard rock. Some guitar solos last too long, while other solos are (intentionally or not) catchier than the chorus melodies of their respective songs. For the most part, though, these guys strike a good balance between crunchy garage rock, 1990s folk, and larger-than-life arena rock. They sound like they might have been on the radio 20 years back. Today, they’re underground, but I think they’ve still got the talent to make some waves.