CD Review of Pain is a Megaphone by Steve Bertrand

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Pain is a Megaphone
starstarstarstarno star Label: Icon Records
Released: 2007
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As the leader of power pop group the Tories, Steve and his band seemed poised for the big time in the late '90s. Consistently compared to Jellyfish, although more on the rocking side of the scale, and having their debut produced by the legendary Phil Ramone, how they missed is beyond me. Performing the theme song to the short-lived NBC television show “Jesse” should’ve helped to up their profile, but the band split after the release of its second album (with James Guffee going the solo route while JJ Farris hooked up with one of the Nelson twins for Red37).

Releasing an album with his new band Avion, once again Steve seemed poised for his breakthrough, even charting with the single “Seven Days Without You,” and having other songs appear on various television shows (“Beautiful” featured prominently in an episode of “Scrubs”). But once again, whatever happened…happened (which was nothing) and Avion called it a day.

So now we come to an older, wiser and somewhat mellower Steve Bertrand. Sometimes when an artist “mellows,” the results are less than desirable. Not only do they lose that core audience that was expecting something a little more upbeat, the new fans they tend to make aren’t loyal enough to stick with anything past a single or two. In this case, the exact opposite should apply. Longtime Bertrand fans will be in heaven, as his core songwriting signature is still in place, but there’s enough modern commercial appeal to win new fans and maybe, just maybe, that long awaited breakthrough could happen. Obviously Steve believes in his music enough that this time out he’s strictly a solo artist.

Although the majority of the songs on Pain is a Megaphone are of the mid-tempo kind, there’s enough variety in the mix of ballads and a few upbeat rockers to keep things interesting long after the initial thrill wears off.

The crunchy, upbeat melodies and smart lyrics of songs like “The Last Mile is the Longest,” “Renting a Room” and “Sellout” will appeal to those displaced Tories fans. Slower-paced fare like “In the Dreaming” or “Megaphone” have just the right amount of emotion to become sizable pop hits. Finally, “Glorious Collision” is a bit different than most of Steve’s past work, with its stomp and shout chorus and almost looped riff, and the sound would be an interesting future avenue to explore.

Steve Bertrand has yet to let anyone down in his previous attempts, and he’s far fulfilled his obligations this time out. It would be fitting if success finally caught up with him.

~Kurt Torster