The first full length studio release from New Orleans based The Good for Nothin’ Band, Maniac World, is a ten song collection introducing the five piece to the world at large with flair and chops for days. New Orleans native and chief songwriter Jon Roniger leads the band through a musical vision fueled from two distinct sources. Their singer/songwriter aesthetic and the Dixieland jazz sound propelling the group forward make each of the album’s song an intensely musical and even cinematic listening experience. The Good for Nothin’ Band’s songwriting possesses an ample sense of humor, but it’s dry, understated, and often blended with the bittersweet narratives in so many of the album’s compositions. Maniac World strikes notes of the familiar, but overall, it’s quite unlike anything you’ll hear this year.
The opener “Fishin’ for Stars” perfectly embodies the band’s songwriting approach. The lyrics are gently imagistic without ever being pretentious or heavy-handed and Roniger sings with a light, but forceful touch. The Good for Nothin’ Band obviously specialize in different textures than your typical four or five piece rock configuration, but the songwriting is endlessly malleable no matter the instrumentation and “Fishin’ for Stars” moves with familiar and dramatic dynamic range. Melody is an extraordinarily important part of what The Good for Nothin’ Band do and few songs illustrate this better than “DNA”. Flashes of the aforementioned smirking humor fill the lyric, but there’s a biting intelligence at work just beneath the surface well worth hearing out. The band shares a talent for turning a musical phrase as well. The quirky, slightly jaunty melody hooks into your ears immediately and never loses its appeal.
The title song brings growling trombone with some lightly pushed blues guitar in the introduction before sliding into some deliciously lazy verses. Flares of guitar swell between each turnaround and Brendan Bull’s drumming has a muscular swing ideal for the song. Jauntiness returns on the humorous and, once again, very intelligent “Bosom of Extremes”. The jazzy hop powering this cut elicits an equally popping and inspired vocal while the musicians provide some of their most tasteful accompaniment yet. The album’s seventh track, “Romeo in Rags” revisits the bluesy lonesomeness of the title song in a much more muted, acoustic fashion than before. There’s some compelling instrumental turns here, particularly Evan Paydon’s bass solo, but the real signature of the track is the woozy stagger the band perfects in the song’s first minutes and never loses.
The hard stride of “Lips Like Candy” gains even more urgency from the fiery horn work courtesy of trombonist Russell Ramirez and trumpetist Alex Massa. There’s a tangible emotiveness to Roniger’s voice, but his primary forte is the playful, pawing vocal you hear an example of on this track. The bleary eyed stagger heard in “Romeo in Rags” returns in spirit, if not entirely in tempo, on the album’s finale “One Last Call”. It’s a song that does a superb job of sounding like someone taking their leave for the evening. There’s been too much laughter, too many tears, and too much of everything, but The Good for Nothin’ Band invest it with a stylish three am beauty that’s impossible to ignore. Maniac World is an impressive all-around debut that sets the band up nicely for any future writing and recording. They establish a very flexible musical template with this collection and show no limits about where they can take it from here.
9 out of 10 stars