On their sophomore record “Feel,” Wild Adriatic sound like a band who have played together live a countless number of times. The upstate New York trio are incredibly tight, playing off one another in a way that can only be accomplished through years of experience. In fact, they’re so put-together that this record almost feels as if it were designed using a calculated formula; which works to both their advantage and disadvantage.
On the one hand, the band have a particular sound in mind on this record and they really commit to it. They’re not concerned with the glitz and glamor that modern computerized instrumentation can create. Instead, they utilized the talents of Grammy-nominated producer Frenchie Smith to bring out the organic flavors of their “roots rock” instruments (guitar, bass, acoustic drums, keys, horns) and attempt to build something of their own using the classic, American rock blueprints.
Opener “Appleton” is sort of their sonic mission statement. It’s a summery blues rock track with a thick, funky bassline, warm horns, a guitar solo that’s slightly soiled with distortion—though not coated like practically anything post-“Sweet Emotion” Aerosmith—and subtle harmonies that are nicely balanced. In fact, everything on this record is mixed and equalized pristinely; giving each instrument plenty of breathing room while still placing them at a naturally close distance to evoke a live performance.
However, as the record moves forward it becomes increasingly clearer that this batch of songs were designed solely to be played in a live setting. Vocalist/guitarist Travis Gray has a fantastic voice and he knows exactly when to crack into his powerful falsetto, or an admittedly competent yet completely unmemorable guitar solo, in order to get a crowd cheering. Songs like “Come Back Baby” and “Cruel Lovin” are centered around danceable grooves and feature instantaneous hooks that surely encourage hand-clapping, street festival goers to boogie down and holler along. However, there’s nothing here particularly compelling or anything that challenges the multitude of retro genres they’re pulling from.
This is barbecue rock. It’s fun, warm music that certainly sets a friendly mood and is probably a fun time to rock out to live with a brew in hand. Gray’s falsetto is impressive and the band have tight chemistry. However, nearly every song relies on relentlessly overused lyrical clichés and Wild Adriatic aren’t doing anything instrumentally on here that’s even the slightest bit revolutionary. They’re an amalgamation of the ‘70s: blues rock, Motown music, funk, reggae, and southern rock. Together, it creates something objectively palatable and momentarily pleasurable—but there’s nothing here that’s pushing boundaries or proving this band to be an innovative force in the current rock climate.