This week, as part of our “In rotation” feature, we’re launching a new column of monthly record reviews of new releases by local artists. The inaugural review is of the new, self-titled disc by rocker Max Volume. In Northern Nevada, the name Max Volume is synonymous with classic rock. He’s been a local rock radio on-air personality for decades. I remember hearing his distinctive baritone coming over the airwaves back when I was in middle school.
The magic of the internet has now made commercial radio almost entirely irrelevant to my life, but I know Volume is still a weekly, or even daily, part of a lot of local lives.
He has released a half dozen or so albums, as a vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, but this is the first I’ve heard. For the most part, it sounds like bluesy bar-band rock ’n’ roll—what you might expect to find at, say, Davidson’s Distillery on a Saturday night. No reinvention of the wheel, just letting the old one keep rollin’.
The blues rock is given a little boost of punk energy courtesy of drummer Troy Mowat of 7 Seconds fame.
At 22 songs and 68:30 minutes, the album is way too long, and many of the songs are out-and-out throwaways, but there’s a solid EP’s worth of good tracks. Standouts include “Mama” and “Passion & Blood,” which sounds like ’70s Who—a big influence throughout the record, in the guitar patterns and in Volume’s vocal rasp.
The mix of Who-style ’70s classic rock with old-school punk—not to mention the tendency to put too many songs on a record—reminds me a little of boozy ’90s indie rockers Guided by Voices. I wonder if Volume is a fan? Or if he ever plays them on the radio?
If anything, the record certainly bolsters his credibility as a rock DJ. His love of rock music is honest, and his voice sounds best at the familiar on-air range.
Most of the lyrics are it’s-time-to-party type stuff, which is fine, and Volume only really loses it when he aims at depth. In the ballad “The Kids Keep Dying,” for example, he’s completely unconvincing singing from the perspective of a teenager: “They told me I can’t ride my skateboard anymore. ”
Still, if a bar band rock record by a beloved local radio personality sounds like something you might like, you’ll find a lot to enjoy. If, however, that doesn’t hold any appeal, I’ll say nothing to dissuade you.