Scranton’s Main Offender has been doing things their way for a solid 20 years now. Since their formation in 1993, the five-piece band has specialized in 1960s-based garage rock minimalism with a hint of funk-edged psychedelica without bowing to passing flavors of the week. The band made a respectable grab for the brass ring via a move to New York City during the mid-1990s, enabling them to play legendary Greenwich Village clubs and record with Grammy-winning producer Steve Burgh, and since the return to NEPA, hasn’t lost a step.
The follow-up to 2010’s “Far Beyond Yonder,” “Sal’s Magic Lounge” is an ambitious double album’s worth of material. Consisting of 18 tracks, several of which are fleshed out to over 6 minutes in length, the album is unhurried in its sense of bluesy groove and instrumental experimentation. “NY Sunrise CA Sunset” is immediately distinguishable in its progressive elements, with a haunting, slightly out-of-tune piano fill that adds a somber quality and vocalist Jeff Patackas eerily repeating the lyric, “It’s fading away, like my life every day,” while a wave-like effect swells in the background.
This band is known for rockers, and they do not disappoint in that department. Tracks like “Rush” are seemingly ripped from generations of rock ‘n’ roll coolness, embracing everything from the metaphorical nose-thumbing of The Kinks to the avant-garde melodic twang of The Strokes. “Cold and Snowy Town” wouldn’t sound out of place on an Oasis album, with a singing guitar lead and distinguishably Brit attitude. “Tired” is another roughneck standout, with a punk-knuckle hybrid that lands somewhere between Social Distortion’s Mike Ness playing to a Roger Daltrey vocal track – instantly infectious.
On the lighter side, “Don’t Go Looking Down” is a trippy vortex of “Amorica”-era Black Crowes headiness, while “Beautiful,” with its lonely chord voicing and anguished vocals, makes for a surefire emotional wreck, in a good way. “Lullabye” sounds like the missing outtake from a mashup of Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy” and Radiohead’s “OK Computer,” almost unsettling in its almost Renaissance-inspired ambience but ultimately redemptive in the contemplation, “If only you could see, how good this life can be.”
Music with a stylistic chip on its shoulder, “Sal’s Magic Lounge” is Main Offender’s most expansive body of work yet, and is easily this band’s “Exile on Main St.”
Main Offender ‘Sal’s Magic Lounge’ Rating: W W W W V