Gary B & The Notions - Get Those Crazy Notions! (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Gary B & The Notions

Get Those Crazy Notions! (2007)


Baltimore four-piece Gary B & The Notions does indeed have a dude named Gary B. in it. The B is for Barrett in case you were dying to know, a dude who has performed solo for years as Your Imaginary Friend. No, I hadn't heard of that either, yet he has opened for an impressive list of indie powerhouses like Sufjan Stevens, the Mountain Goats and the Hold Steady.

The band name sound like they are either a swing or ska band (it's no ‘Captain Chewie & the Space Skadets' though, an old local band from my high school days). However, that would be incorrect. Though I'm not the first to make this comparison for the guys here, I just can't shake this Elvis Costello likeness I've read in their quips. It's true: They are nothing too out-there, just straight ahead vocal-focused bar-ready rock and roll. Unlike the quips, I'm not ga-ga over it. They don't share with Costello that intangible ‘it' factor that make songs stick in your brain, though the Notions do have their act together.

"Partridge vs. Magpie" starts the EP proper after a short intro song, and it's strong enough, with plenty of bouncy and catchy, lightly-distorted guitar leads. But then it goes for 5½ minutes without tempo or dynamic variation. The repeated "take it to your heart" bits of the next track "I Got a Car" annoyed me, though the rest of the song is okay but also too long at over four minutes. They do a similar grating repetition of the title in the very next track "Taller Than a Human," though some of the song reminds me of Wood/Water-era Promise Ring and that is a good thing indeed.

The EP ends on the upswing. "The Exercise Song" is my fave, picking up the tempo and keeping things short and to-the-point. Handclaps are a bonus. Then there's the ballad closer "Lori," a name shared with their top 12 MySpace friends. The end of the song is pretty sweet when they repeat "take it to your soul" and the organ kicks in over the slow groove. I guess they can make the repetition thing work by changing one word (remember "take it to your heart"?) but it's mostly due to a better melody.

So it's not a total wash. They got skills. They bring the rock. This EP is OK, and I could see this group being great down the road.