Philadelphia band, by way of South Africa, opens its Pipe Dreams EP with a bit of a Southwestern vibe on a track titled “Cartel Sage.” It features ringing electric guitars that conjure images of Spaghetti Western movies. This is one of many colors The Missing Frets reveals through this five-track project.
As you can imagine from the trio’s name, this is a guitar-centered combo, with guitar-oriented pop-rock songs. One titled “Unstuck” puts its guitar sounds to a semi-reggae groove. The vocals, like all the songs on this project, are slightly buried in the mix. The track eventually breaks into a more propulsive, rocking groove. Toward the track’s end, there is – for lack of a better term – a weedy electric guitar solo, which sounds to have been drawn from some Woodstock era rock song.
The release’s best groove, by far, is the one driving “Crossroads.” It kicks off with a thumping bass/drum pattern, which gives it a lively feel. It jumps out of the speakers in a way unlike any of these other five recordings. It includes an electric guitar solo, but a relatively subdued one.
The track “Run” is a close second to “Crossroads.” This one also features a 60s feel, but more of a garage rock style, rather than the slightly stoner rock of “Crossroads.”
Pipe Dreams is actually this act’s third release, since fully forming in 2016. Although the band likes to compare itself to Midnight Oil, the songs – on this EP, at least – aren’t as explosive as those from that iconic Australian act. This song set was recorded by and at Cardinal Recordings, a full service located in the group’s hometown of Philadelphia, PA. Although these are five strong songs, the production leaves a little something to be desired. The sonic just doesn’t always sound as crisp as one might wish them to be. They are good rock songs, but – especially when compared to Midnight Oil – these songs don’t provide the sort of energetic excitement they may have created with the help of a different producer.
Lyrically, it’s difficult to see where the album’s title, Pipe Dreams, fits into the overall picture. Perhaps the opener, “Cartel Sage,” refers to someone caught in the drug cartel lifestyle who is hoping for something better. Certainly, anyone like that would dream of something greater – or, at least safer – than that lifestyle.
These five songs reveal potential, and it’s easy to imagine how good the group might sound under different conditions. The singer vocalizes a little like the Bodeans’s singer and is the act’s most distinctive aural element. There is good stuff here, only it’s buried beneath a relatively muffled production approach. With good songs and a great producer, the sky’s the limit. One also longs a bit to hear more biographical songs from the group. After all, it’s not every day a band relocates from faraway South Africa, to Philadelphia, PA. This project may not be The Missing Frets’ finest hour, but keep an eye on the act, nevertheless, because there may still be many good things to come.