The evolution of Pike 27 has been one of the more interesting to behold in recent Cincinnati music history. Built around the songwriting of frontperson and veteran local musician Dave Purcell, the band’s debut album, Falling Down Hard, emerged at the turn of the century, showcasing a captivatingly rootsy and rockin’ vibe. Not long after, the Americana feel began to fade in favor of a smart, melodic Rock sound inspired by Purcell’s longtime love of artists like Elvis Costello (more on him shortly) and R.E.M. But when Purcell moved to Northern Ohio in 2007, the band ended. In 2015, with Purcell back in Cincinnati and musically reinvigorated, Pike 27 released Calling Out, an EP reintroduction. The following year, the band settled into local studio Ultrasuede with producers Gary Shell and John Hoffman to record The Long Fight, its first full-length since 2001.
After the recording, the lineup shifted, most notably with Purcell moving to drums — his first instrument — following the departure of Dave Killen. He continued to provide vocals when Pike 27 performed live, but then another major change occurred. Dan Mecher — who proved himself to be one of the best songwriters in the area while fronting his band, Turnbull ACs — joined Purcell (now more fully focused on drumming, with occasional vocal turns), bassist Sean Rhiney and guitarist Mike Fair, taking over the lead vocal spot, playing guitar and bringing in some of his own songs.
Though The Long Fight features Pike 27’s pre-drummer-move lineup, it is such a fantastic album — from the songs and performances to the crisp, rich production — and the band put so much work into it, it was still pressed up and will be available Friday at area independent record stores and pike27.bandcamp.com, as well as through all major online streaming outlets.
The songwriting prowess, emotive vocals and strong playing from Rhiney and Fair that became trademarks of Pike 27 are in peak form on The Long Fight. While the album is capable of rocking with Stonesian swagger (see: “St. Andrew,” featuring some rippin’ lead guitar work, and “No Closer to the Truth”), the Costello association is the most apt one here. Although that should be one of the most flattering comparisons a Rock & Roll band could ever receive, that’s not to say Pike 27 has turned into a cheap Attractions knock-off. Like other great musical acts of the past 40 years, Pike 27 conjures the same spirit as the best of the massively influential Costello’s work, sharing with him not only a melodic magnetism, but also an ability to vividly and perceptively translate and project through song a full range of moods and emotions (from passion and ache to triumph, joy and beyond).
The album’s accompanying press release accurately notes The Long Fight is reminiscent of Costello’s 1982 masterwork Imperial Bedroom, on which he notably expanded his instrumental palette. While a lot of that appraisal can be traced to the vocals, melodies and overall structuring (the core of the amazing “Help Me Down” captures Costello’s Pop Rock genius perfectly; listen above), the arrangements also help steer things in that direction with help from several guest musicians. A horn section (Sean Fitzpatrick, Dominic Marino and Phillip Hilger), strings (Kate Wakefield on cello; she also provides wonderful, atmospheric background vocals), singing from the great Beth Harris and keys from the estimable Chris Comer add new colors and shading to the Pike 27 sound on various songs throughout The Long Fight, helping to make it one of the best Cincinnati-produced releases of 2017. Besides being a thoroughly satisfying listen, the album should also leave you exceptionally excited (especially if you’re familiar with Mecher’s talents) to see where the new Pike 27 lineup takes things next.
The band hosts a release party for The Long Fight this Saturday at York Street Café (738 York St., Newport, yorkstonline.com). The show kicks off at 9 p.m. with a set from Mike Tittel and Lauren Bray of New Sincerity Works. Admission is $5; $10 gets you through the door and a copy of the new album on CD.
For more, go to pike27.net.
Contact Mike Breen: [email protected] citybeat.com