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Posted August 13, 2007 by Mike Mineo in Features
 
 

Smart Music by Smart People: The Main Drag

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The effect that the use of strings has on a band’s degree of singularity often impresses me, granting illustrious moments of emotional potency even while the other instrumental aspects are minimally conventional at best. Without the aid of violinist Matt Levitt, it is entirely possible that The Main Drag would be grouped into the masses of other whiney indie-rock bands led by boisterous guitars and rehashed melodies; hardly the epitome of innovation. But even if one were to mentally subtract Levitt from The Main Drag’s equation, such thoughts are merely contradictory. The overall songwriting remains strong in its own right. Lead vocalist and songwriter Adam Arrigo crafts a slew of epically somber melodies throughout the duration of The Main Drag’s work, incorporating contemporary influences that remain familiar yet creatively inspiring. Though the songs are regularly four minutes or so in length, the variety of instrumental and production elements provide for an experience that appears nearly epic in proportion. The contributions from Levitt and Arrigo are what differentiates The Main Drag from this unimpressive, generic grouping, appearing as a band whose immersed group effort shines brightly in each and every song. Though their style rings off that of experience, the Boston-based group remains fairly new to the music world. Their debut, Simmer in Your Hotseat, was released in 2005 and drew acclaimed reviews, earning the band a few opening gigs with the likes of Arcade Fire.

In addition to such admirable stage spots, The Main Drag won Salon’s “Song Search”, a competition voted by fans deciding on the best entered unsigned band. Actually, Bishop Allen originally won but when Salon realized that they were ineligible (due to one of their EPs being available to purchase online), the prize went to the second place winner. So yes, the runner-up, The Main Drag took home the well-deserved prize with their song, “A Jagged Gorgeous Winter”. They were awarded a smooth $5,000 and used the majority of that money wisely, releasing their second album, Yours As Fast As Mine, earlier this July. With the Salon prize in their pockets, The Main Drag signed recently to Reasonable People’s League. Finally on a respectable label, The Main Drag unequivocally appears poised to break out in a big way. Though, judging from the photo above, the microcosm of the revolving members appear to have different stylistic preferences for their own appearance, the group’s unified musicianship is not once in question throughout the pleasing Yours As Fast As Mine. With a variety of acoustics, strings, electric guitars, synths, and rampant percussion working in their favor, The Main Drag’s second album is a compellingly diverse experience.

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Much of The Main Drag’s material personally reminds me of a organized fusion of Broken Social Scene and Death Cab for Cutie. Their implementation of twinkling synths, darkly ambient atmospherics, and occasional brass over typical guitar and rhythmic utilization serves to accompany sound that is both ambitious and accessible; a rare marking that should be looked up with admiration. The addition of strings serves as merely an additionally gripping factor. Though it is the attribute that will likely distinguish The Main Drag from the hordes of hopefuls, they use it wisely and with premeditated caution. While havub a proficient violinist in tow would leave many groups in a state of an overwhelming overuse, The Main Drag selects the moments flawlessly. Take “Love During Wartime” for instance, the best track on Yours As Fast As Mine. The introductory verse is clouded with heavily reverbed vocals, a pair of sparkling keys, and recurring guitar riffs. The violin silently lurks in the background, waiting until the exceptionally heartwarming chorus to make their anticipated appearance. When the vocal tone shifts into a more melodically comforting state, the strings follow powerfully in suit. With such a devastating hook, “Love During Wartime” should predictably be the song that earns The Main Drag some significant radio airplay. Though the rapidly bursting percussion, more involved use of strings, and vocal enthusiasm led “A Jagged Gorgeous Winter” to Salon’s “Song Search” prize, “Love During Wartime” proves more enduringly satisfying.

With all the quality songs on Yours As Fast As Mine, I suppose I should not be all that surprised. After all, three of the members – Arrigo, John Drake, and Matt Boch – all graduated from a few colleges in Massachusetts that even the most imperious would call prestigious. Arrigo graduated from Tufts and both Drake and Boch are alumni of Harvard. While the majority of successful musicians tend to be school drop-outs for whatever reason (creative pressure, opportunism, etc.), The Main Drag are rather sound examples that staying in school won’t ruin a musical career. After all, elaborately layered songs like the string-induced cries of “Goodnight Technologist” and the impressive guitar-string collaboration on “Montana” sounds like the work of studied, scholarly musicians. But honestly, even if the members of The Main Drag went to school in a dumpster, the music would likely come out just as good as it did on their latest album. The several highlights on Yours As Fast As Mine are the results of The Main Drag’s form of initiated musicianship that even the most up-tight of music professors at Harvard would nod their heads to in delight.

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The Main Drag – Love During Wartime

[audio:https://obscuresound.com/mp3/mdrag-lov.mp3]

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The Main Drag – A Jagged Gorgeous Winter

[audio:https://obscuresound.com/mp3/mdrag-aja.mp3]

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The Main Drag – Goodnight Technologist

[audio:https://obscuresound.com/mp3/mdrag-goo.mp3]

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Mike Mineo

 
I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound. I used to write for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].