Auto De Pa NotionAuto De Pa
Uncle Sam NotionUncle Sam
Moody Hollow NotionMoody Hollow
Rumi's Tavern NotionRumi's Tavern
Minimum Wage NotionMinimum Wage
Fistful of Prozac NotionFistful of Prozac
The Peak NotionThe Peak
Hold On NotionHold On
Remember Leaving NotionRemember Leaving
It’s hard to pin down Little Rock band Notion’s sophomore full-length release, The Peak. And why would anyone care to label an album that consistently refuses to pigeonhole itself, but instead offers sublime musical surprises with the turn of every tune, from the roaring fireball of alternative rock that is “To Begin With …” to the feedback-driven dance-y rock of “Remember Leaving.”
Formed in early 2006, the quartet — Shon Hartman on guitar and lead vocals; Sean Lyndsey on drums and vocals; Noel Moniot on guitar and vocals; and Brian Wolverton on bass and vocals — released their self-titled debut in 2007, an 11-tune effort that ended with the 11-minute long “Stay.” The new album is 16 tracks in 49 minutes, and rooted in rock, but not afraid to draw the curtain and reveal it’s crazy side. And unlike the friend who needs a dozen or so drinks before loosening up, Notion’s The Peak lets you know right out of the gate it’s an album that’s not afraid to act mad as a hatter. Well, mad as a hatter, but in a tuneful, competent, extremely interesting — but mad, quite mad — manner.
It all starts with “To Begin With …,” the album’s second track after a brief intro. What starts as a graceful acoustic strummer with lyrics such as “No fact without a cause/No cause without a fact/Wondering how to talk through a way out of this, recover my breath, my balance, my heartbeat/And keep, my chin, around, your walls,” darts behind a corner and re-emerges with a vicious explosion of distorted guitars. It’s just one of a dozen standout tracks on The Peak.
There’s the gorgeous messiness of “Auto De Fa” with its polyrhythmic drumming, screaming guitars and Jungle Book interlude, and “Ephemera,” which covers swampy guitars with grand piano rock, and interlaces Beach Boys harmonies with Sgt. Pepper horns.
The rhythm of “Uncle Sam” recalls the rough, acoustic rush of the Violent Femmes and adds spot-on lyrics such as “And say, ‘God bless you, Uncle Sam’/You’re not perfect/But I’m not saying I am.” The end of the bluesy, thundering stomp of the heavy rocking “Moody Hollow” reminds one at its tail end of the electronic effects of Led Zeppelin’s “Bonzo’s Montreux,” and “Rumi’s Tavern” is a Southern Hemisphere, acoustic swinger complete with harmonica and chicken-scratching guitar.
The last half of The Peak contains a sudden rush of under two-and-a-half minute tunes, from the solid, alternative rock march of “Starlight” to the breathless, murky rock of “Exhale” to the ’60s British rock drive of “Minimum Wage.”
And how does such an eclectic collection end? With The Killers-inspired rock of the aforementioned “Remember Leaving,” with its pulsating bass line, howling guitars and tumbling drums.
Notion’s The Peak is not the kind of music that garners radio play, but radio play is mostly for the bands willing to play it safe. Notion? Listen to The Peak, and you’ll understand Notion believes playing it safe is boring. And you know what? It really is.