~By Mike Sion~
Have you heard, “Rock ’n’ Roll Is Dead”?
If you haven’t — and you’re a rock fan of any age in 2018 whose blood boils at statements that the venerable genre is defunct (or moribund or passé) — go find the EP with this cheeky title on Bandcamp, by Reno quintet Silver.
You’ll discover songs instantly as familiar in vibe as what you love best from the scrappy British Invasion bands from the 1960s, or arena rockers from the early ’70s, and as distinct as genuine rock can be from the calculated, commercial productions of today’s pop bands masquerading as rock bands, such as Imagine Dragons with its contrived, hook-every-seven-seconds thunder.
Silver is the latest brainchild of Greg Gilmore — a gifted and uncompromising singer-songwriter-guitarist who for the past seven years (through most of his twenties) has been one of the leading lights among Reno rockers. Heavily influenced by artistic and commercial giants of melody-oriented guitar rock from the 1960s through the 2000s (though ignoring the 1980s), Gilmore shares their rebel spirit plus reverence for stick-in-your-ear hooks and lovesick lyrics — driven by restless guitars and drum-smacking downbeats . . . and a visceral feeling you can’t get from studio overproduction.
After promising, but ultimately curtailed projects with ex-bands The Kanes and Karma, Gilmore and the crew he’s assembled for Silver have struck retro classic-rock gold with “Rock and Roll Is Dead.” While the EP’s five numbers are credited to the entire band, they bear his trademark feisty-yet-tuneful approach.
Gilmore has that rarest of natural talents in any music genre: the ability to craft a catchy tune. Couple it with unbridled emotion conjured by the eternal muses of lust and love (realized or rejected), harmonize it over three or four chords, arrange it for a guitar or two (cranking out classic riffs and licks), a bass, drums and (if you’re fortunate), keys — and you got yourself a real rock song. All you need is a dynamic singer — and Gilmore’s piercing, throaty tenor strikes like a cross between Tom Petty’s nasal twang and Jack White’s garage-bluesy belt.
Even before its official release on June 3 in conjunction with a live set Silver played to culminate the Cheney Street Block Party, in Midtown, tracks from “Rock ’n’ Roll Is Dead”was getting spins on the two local radio stations most devoted to playing area artists: KTHX-FM 100.1 (“The X”) and KVNV-FM 89.1 (“NV89”).
Since that public kickoff for the EP, Silver has been hitting the road hard, touring in June and July through Nevada and California. Two free shows in Reno are slated for 9 p.m. June 27 at the Eldorado Resort Casino’s Brew Brothers nightclub, as part of NV89’s weekly “Local 891 Live” concert series (for ages 21 and up); and 6 p.m. July 13 in Wingfield Park, downtown, at the Rollin’ on the River festival.
OK, so now for a rundown of the songs on “Rock ’n’ Roll Is Dead” — which was recorded live (except for lead-guitar overdubs) to analog tape, using no click track, in the Loud As Folk studio in the basement of the Potentialist Workshop arts incubator on East Second Street:
Four of the five tracks are flat-out rockers— brilliantly structured, ragged only in the sense they were loosely produced in a basement studio — and full-on cocky, clever and catchy. Gilmore’s voice packs a ton of emotion and can release bombs of fiery feeling even in short phrases. But as rocking as Silver’s approach is, the sound never veers too far from its melodic heart. Three members — lead guitarist Josh Kisor, bassist Brendon Lund and keyboardist Adam Landis — contribute vocal harmonies behind Gilmore. (The remaining member is drummer, Jeffrey Knight.)
- “Be Somebody” sounds very 1960s retro with plenty of cavernous reverb, an ominously wailing organ and a killer guitar solo rising from the depths of blues-rocky psychedelia.
- “Black Lipstick,” with its standout chorus line — “25 hours a day love, won’t make love burn away — is a wailing love letter (with a tip of the bottle to the lyrical device of the Beatles’ “Eight Days a Week”) to a wild lady love.
- “Medusa” is the only lengthy (clocking in at five-and-a-half minutes) song and builds slower as more of a jam — à la early 1970s Rolling Stones. Gilmore’s voice even stretches out words like a bleary-eyed Mick Jagger circa “Exile On Main Street.”
- “How To Feel” is a battle between a warbling organ and a feisty distorted lead guitar, backed by a wall of vocal harmonies, sounding like a second-wave British Invasion band that would’ve done the Zombies proud. It grabs the listener by the throat while compelling the head to bob to the beat.
- “Burn & Turn” is a slow-building number with wistful vocals at the mellow start, but builds to an arena-anthem-like chorus — “Burn, and turn me” — then rolls out into a long jam that Gilmore rightfully calls, “screamin’ late-’60s stuff.”
Throughout the EP, the dark tones of the guitars (with blues-scale noodling in the jam sections) and keyboards (think grooving Hammond or Farfisa organ, and Rhodes electric piano) seem to set the songs in the late 1960s/early ’70s, yet still sound fresh and contemporary. Gilmore said his compositional approach is eclectic — to a degree.
“I listen to a lot of modern radio,” he told me in an interview. “The radio is a big influence. I don’t know how you can be a music artist with hopes of a career and not listen to the radio. You don’t have to like it. Just take notes and do it your way. There are only so many tricks and hooks. But my heart lies with the gritty stuff from the ’60s, ’70s, ’90s, and 2000s. But I still love me a pop hook. Just not any of that Top 40 garbage.”
Wherefore the title, “Rock ’n’ Roll Is Dead”?
“Everyone’s saying it, most notably that hack Gene Simmons,” Gilmore explained, refereeing to the free-speaking founder of the 1970s glam-metal band, Kiss, who asserted that rock had expired in a 2014 interview with Esquire magazine. Added Gilmore: “I figured we’d just let people think we’re an EDM act to trick ’em into listening to us, because that’s what the damn kids like these days.”
Local music lovers are forever waiting for a Reno band to break out and put the Biggest Little City on the national music map. Will it be Silver with its grassroots campaign to rock the country with its classic sound?
At the least, expect more product from the group.
“We’re looking to have another EP or full-length recorded by the end of the year,” Gilmore said. “It took a while to release this first one, but I see us putting out an EP every six months from this point on. Shouldn’t be too hard . . . right?”
Be sure to check out Silver live Wednesday at The Brew Brothers inside of the Silver legacy, June 27th, 2018.
Here is a link to the Facebook event: www.facebook.com/events