The Ardent Facebook page recently posted a note about a new Memphis band – The Bulletproof Vests – with an new album – Attack! – mixed by Ardent engineer Adam Hill. I got to know Adam a bit while writing the book – he's the Ardent archivist as well as wearing his engineer hat – and was eager to hear his work. I started surfing around to find sites where I could sample it. iTunes and CD Baby had mp3s for close to $10 for the album. Bandcamp (link above) had the entire album available in lossless format for $5. Sold. Now that's what I've been talking about for years. You want to sell albums in today's environment? Sell them cheap. Make them available in a lossless format (along with mp3s for those who like the feel of pencils jabbing in their eardrums. I will take a chance on a record for $5. Not for $10. And no way for $15. I have to have heard it and really want it. Unfortunately (for the recording industry) the new albums I'm willing to spend that much on have dwindled to close to zero. And I've bought just about everything I want in back catalog (and refuse to buy it again for a third time). But $5? That's reasonable. And getting back to Bulletproof Vests...I'm glad I did.
The band can really play (sadly, this can't be said of most bands today), the songs are top notch (you'll hear some nods to Big Star and influences with an abiding love of the MGS throughout), and there's that elusive blend of variety and unity on that's the hallmark of a really good album. The album wasn't mixed at Ardent but Adam has whipped up a great sounding record in the Ardent / John Fry tradition. (Of course, that all begins with how well the band recorded themselves to begin with. As John Fry noted in the book, a lot of records don't sound good because the musicians aren't making good sounds do to begin with.) If you dig the Memphis sound and all that means, this is a highly recommended addition to your play pile.
Here's how the band describes themselves:
"The album, performed and captured by the band themselves in their own Memphis studio, was mixed with a magic wand and a potato battery by Ardent Studios engineer, Adam Hill, who has been involved with Big Star, Jack White, The Green Brothers, The 145’s, & Jim Dickinson. Inside this smorgasbord of sound sits a rollicking exploration of tone and genre that is part psyched out backwards fuzz freak-out, part sweet country slow drippin' ear molasses, and part subterranean buzzsaw scream served with a helping of the heart stopping Memphis sound, filled with Big Star’s, Moloch’s, Reigning Sound's, Oblivians', Guilloteens' and MGs."