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Album Review

The Trap

Great Caesar's Ghost! Keith Steier has traveled into the past, kidnapped the entire Beserkley roster, locked them in a recording studio and forced them to record his songs! The last thing I expected to hear when I put on his CD (on any CD, actually) was mid-70s new wave a la Jonathan Richman, Earthquake, Rubinoos and Greg Kihn, but a number of the songs here are just that. Punchy rhythm guitar with lead guitar reminiscent of early Earthquake (maybe even a bit better in places) lay the basics for Steier's not so perfect (but right up there with Richman and cohorts) voice and I'm swept away. Girl, Someday You Will, The Hound Dog Won't Go, and Emotional Wave are permeated with that classic sound, a sound I loved. Hell, I even grabbed the 45s (even the ones from the early days before Beserkley found its way--- Don't Tread on Me and that classic 45-with-porn-chapbook illustrated by S. Clay Wilson, Saga of Yukon Pete). Whether that had any direct connection to the label or not, I bought it through Beserkley's indie distribution setup before they hit the big time. But I digress. The point is, whether Steier realizes it or not, he nailed the Beserkley era on those tracks. It is pure flashback.

For those saying Bes-wha? and yeck (despite my enthusiasm for everything Beserkley, I realize that their music was not everyone's, uh, cup of tea--- maybe that was the problem. I was drinking beer), Steier is not all Richman/Rubinoos-bent. He has some fine moments with modern pop (the wall of sound backup of Any Given Day is a Pop high and Next We Fall Apart has a chorus with a real hook) and he gives us a couple of showpieces centered on percussive piano and drama (Cracks and Rush), either of which could be altered for stage.

In fact, The Trap album could basically be aligned into three segments--- Beserkley Pop, Modern Pop and Dramatic Pop--- three styles so very different that it makes me think that inspiration came at three very different and distinct stages in Steier's long stint as songwriter. You try writing songs for a couple of decades and keep styles intact. Life gets in the way. Things change. He makes it work, though, each style cocooned in its own world musically but tied together by the obvious passion he has for his music.

If Steier moves at his present pace, he will be well into his seventies by the time the next album comes along. God knows what he will come up with between now and then, but you can bet he won't be half-assed about it.

Then again, looking at the album jacket, maybe he will. His place is a mess. I don't think I would want to sit on his couch, even covered in plastic. And I wonder if those bars are over the window for a reason...

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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