Local CD Review: The Tempers' 'Mauled'

May 19, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Veteran singer/songwriter Maurice Mattei and his band The Tempers celebrate the release of their new CD, Mauled, this Saturday at The Redmoor in Mount Lookout. The show will feature an opening set by local Surf Rock band, Don’t Fear the Reverb, plus appearances by David Wolfenberger, Mike Helm, Brandon Dawson, Sharon Udoh and more.—-

Before The Tempers (and still on occasion), Mattei was known for solo acoustic gigs and minimalist (often just acoustic guitar and vocals) CD releases that showcased his deft songwriting talents. But Mattei sounds like a new man with The Tempers, developing a catchy Garage Pop style that at times recalls AM radio hits from the ’60s. The band itself is aces, with Bill Grapes and Mike Grimm, formerly of Garage greats The Mortals, supplying bass and drums, and Rick Howell offering agile harmonica.

The cleverly-titled Mauled is the full-band version of Mattei’s acoustic project, Kenwood Towne Center (read about the history of the project here), which featured songs named after stores located in the area mall (this new version includes three songs not on the original project). The production and arrangements of the songs are fantastic, giving the album a real diversity, moving from stirring piano balladry (“White House/Black Market”) to newer-Dylan Roots Rock (“Chico’s”) to Euro street Folk (“Aeropostale”) to hooky, vintage-styled Pop Rock (“Let’s Go Straight,” “Crabtree & Evelyn”). Even the less “filled out,” more minimal tracks are laced with majestic additives like lush strings, piano tinkles and Howell’s tasty harmonica licks.

The mall “theme,” thankfully, is mostly limited to the song titles – this isn’t a concept album about working the hot-pretzel stand at the mall. As usual with Mattei, the songwriting is top-notch, deep and poetic and full of concise, erudite character studies and stories. But with The Tempers’ assistance, Mattei’s delivery has become more animated and varied.

You can preview some of the tracks from Mauled at the band's MySpace page here.