The musical elements that first strike one while listening to Fred Argir’s album Still Alive for the first time are all the Neil Young-ish emotional guitar solos on it. Such primitive electric guitar string-bending is an enjoyable recurrent throughout Argir’s album, and a kind of connective glue from track to track.
Stylistically, Still Alive relies upon fairly straightforward classic rock elements. Your basic guitar, bass and drums. Argir plays all these instruments, and you might say this album’s title, Still Alive, is a sly commentary on the classic rock genre. It’s not unusual, for instance, for today’s millennials to prefer older rock & roll over contemporary sounds. These days, if you want to hear real rock & roll guitar, you either need to seek out the latest pimply-faced alternative band, or turn on country radio, which is usually little more than classic rock guitar riffs underpinning Southern-accented singing. Pop radio has been commandeered by hip-hop artists and dance divas, sadly. Guitars are disappearing faster than big game in African jungles, it seems.
Argir songs consist of emotional lyrics placed over surging melodies. Most every track also includes an equally emotional guitar solo. It’s as though Argir’s ragged singing voice can only say so much, and then his guitar needs to take over and finish the job.
One song that stands above the rest is called “Preachers In The Square.” Lyrically, it describes city street preachers. It’s sung from the perspective of someone that often sees this outdoor preaching and wonders what motivates this religious fervor. These bible-thumpers certainly must seem like strange beasts to many. We all have our individual religious beliefs (or lack of beliefs, as the case may be). Most of use rarely talk about these faiths among friends, though, let alone shouting about them to strangers on the street. The song includes a bright, melodic hook that is much prettier at track seven, than all six recordings preceding it.
The album’s title track is a midtempo rocker that celebrates survival. It joins a collection of mostly similarly tempo-d tracks. Argir’s tendency to create a series of songs based predictable sonic template, is one of the kinks in this DIY artist’s armor. A producer’s objective ear may have pushed Argir to vary the rhythms of his songs more. As good as a guitar rock album this is, it does get to be a little repetitious after a while. A couple of fast ones mixed into the collection may have given the album some welcome variety. These inclusions could have done for Still Alive what the pulsing disco groove of “Another Brick In The Wall” did for Pink Floyd’s The Wall. There’s no denying the high quality of Pink Floyd’s music; however, listening to too much of it can sometimes feel like overdoing cold medicine. Similarly, Argir’s consistent song similarities might affect your ability to fully appreciate the skill that went into creating them.
“Burn The Bridges” is a step in the right direction, as it features a slightly funky guitar groove. It’s not fully realized, but it shows Argir knows how to ‘get into the groove’ when he wants to. Such groove surrender, though, far too rarely on this release.
These criticisms aside, though, it’s sure good to hear an honest-to-goodness rock & roll album. Play any one of these tracks next to Travis Scott’s melody-less “Sicko Mode” hit, for example, and you’ll know what I mean. You can hum along with these, but you can’t sing along with Scott – at all.
That moment – and lets hope that moment comes along with his next release — when Fred Argir throws caution to the wind and lets his sonic freak flag fly, just watch out! He as all the tools; he’s just missing a little creative spark.