The Spectaculars – Let’s Hear Us, Now! | Album Review

The Spectaculars – Let’s Hear Us, Now!

Spex-Tone Records

CD: 11 Songs, 47 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, All Original Songs  

When it comes to certain bands, their names are as iconic as their music. The Doors. The Who. Fleetwood Mac. Diarrhea Planet (okay, not that last one, but it was an actual band). Whether consciously or subconsciously, names create expectations. If you name your band The Spectaculars, you’d better deliver. Fortunately, this veteran Milwaukee family ensemble, boasting thirty-plus years on the blues scene, delivers in spades – especially on instrumentation. Their vocals show their age, but no matter when blistering guitar, reverberating bass, zesty keyboards and dynamite drums are at full throttle. On their latest album, they demand: Let’s Hear Us, Now! They’re ready to take their place in the contemporary electric blues rock hall of fame. They present eleven original songs that might make listeners’ speakers blow. From start to finish, their energy is relentless, even on slow numbers like the heartfelt “Surrogate Blues.”

Founded in 1986, The Spectaculars consist of patriarch Leon Olson on bass, his son Mike on drums, his son Eric on guitar, Joe Loeffelholz on guitar and vocals, and Rob Waters on keyboards. Anexis Olson guest stars on background vocals for track ten.

Kicking things off is “Mean Old Woman,” a groovy ballad about what happens when love goes sour: “She don’t pretend to like me. It’s time to move her out.” For our narrator, however, his partner won’t leave without a price. He wonders what he did wrong. “Was it the booze? Weed? Staying out all night? Lying? Cheat[ing]? I don’t think that’s right…” With a lover like this, who needs an enemy? Next comes a sing-along, “What Was I Thinking,” a Chicago-style takedown of a hookup. Perhaps our hero was thinking after all, but with a different part of his body. Too bad he wound up in the county jail. Rob Waters’ tongue-in-cheek keys inspire smiles. “Lost Another Friend” laments a more tragic loss than an “unfollow” on Facebook, and “Sleepless Night” brings the late, great Sean Costello to mind. It commands attention on all fronts. So does “Power,” with the best vocals and angsty vibes all around. Who among us hasn’t felt the need for autonomy, or at least a little validation from the boss? Check out the guitar solo. It’s a scorcher.

The real standout, though, is “Surrogate Blues.” It’s a slow ballad that’ll bludgeon all of your emotional capacities at once: joy, sorrow, pride, humility, pain and triumph. “You called me Papa. That suited me fine. All of those moments etched in my mind…” As much stock as we put in lineage, family history, and biological descendants, sometimes it’s the ones we rear, not just the ones we birth, that have the most impact. “You called me Papa, too short a time.” If that doesn’t wrench your heart, it needs oil.

Last but not least comes “That’s a Track, Jack!” Indeed. This instrumental might result in shaking walls, raucous cheers, and partygoers dancing on tables. What a fantastic closer!

What’s in a name? The Spectaculars nearly live up to theirs on blues rock fit for a king.

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