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Album Review: Little Muddy “Chain Link”

If you were to sit someone down and have them list their top ten instrumental artists, barring mention of any classical or film composers, you’d either have a confused friend struggling to remember that “one lo-fi beats guy” they used to put on and study to in college, or you’d more than likely have an incomplete list.

Granted, I’m someone who writes music reviews for a living who subsists on a varied diet of genres and artists, and I, myself, am having trouble finding even a top-five within my self-made parameters. There’s simply no attention given in the mainstream to bands and artists that function without lyrics, and that’s not through lack of trying! Enter San Francisco’s instrumental rock group Little Muddy, a band wholly unconcerned with the mainstream perception of their music.

With the upcoming Chain Link, Little Muddy now has half a dozen albums under their belt and the concept of a celebrity or mainstream success couldn’t be further from their minds. Lead guitarist and all-around ringleader Rich Goldstein doesn’t come across as a man with a rockstar ego, and the last nearly twenty-five years of releasing music with Chain Link stands as a testament to this fact — Chain Link, a half-hour return to the studio after six years, couldn’t possibly be a stronger, well-primed undertaking for Goldstein and the band. Stuffed front to back with some of the year’s most pristine guitar tones and song structures, fans and newcomers will find plenty to dive into as they reacclimatize Little Muddy.

 

 

Standouts such as “Triple Agent” allow the band to have a great deal of fun, performing stealth rock fit for a retro send-up to everyone’s favorite secret agent man, while more subdued entries like “Night Highway” give way to jam band stylings. Even if certain instruments don’t take center stage in every song, there is at least a great variety of songs for every bandmate to strut their stuff on. The percussion work on “Ricardo’s Ride” sounds airtight, working in tandem with the lackadaisical, melting guitar to bring a fiery, smoking atmosphere to life.

Chain Link manages to use its fourteen unique tracks to great advantage, with some feeling like deep cuts out of a Tarantino flick when others feel at home as the soundtrack to a stormy night drive down a deserted dirt road down south. There’s no predictable scheme or organization to the narrative the tracks spell out when played front to back, but the variety is what keeps Chain Link so engrossing! Predictability might be what gets mainstream appeal but Little Muddy seems to fully reckon with the fact that such appeal can stifle creativity, and, truth be told, they’re a band that doesn’t ever have to worry about running low on creative juices.

The possibilities for future releases from Goldstein and the band are as enticing as they’ve ever been, with Chain Link setting the stage perfectly for what’s seemingly still to come, be it a film score, a huge tour, or a concept album. Whatever’s next, fans will at least have had their appetites whetted momentarily with something as remarkable as Chain Link.

 

Brent Musgrave

 

 

 

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