Scott Reynolds & The Steaming Beast, Adventure Boy
I won’t pretend to have known much about Scott Reynolds before listening to Adventure Boy, his solo debut as Scott Reynolds & The Steaming Beast. Upon doing a bit of research, however, I discovered that Mr. Reynolds has quite a rich punk rock past. Reynolds began his musical career in 1989 fronting All, a punk rock act comprised of members of the legendary punk band Descendents. Between ’89 and ’92, Reynolds released four albums with All and then split with the group over artistic differences. From there he went on to form two pop-punk bands, Goodbye Harry and the Pavers, both bands gaining cult followings and both now seemingly defunct.
This brings us to his newest and current project, Scott Reynolds & The Steaming Beast. Well, he’s also currently in a band called the Bonesaw Romance. And another band called 40 Engine. But we’re here to talk Adventure Boy, his album as Scott Reynolds & The Steaming Beast, so let’s get back to that.
One of the best things to be said of the Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev)-produced Adventure Boy is that Reynolds is trying something new here. While his other work never strays too far from the pop-punk formula, Adventure Boy is something of an eclectic country album that only hints at his punk predispositions, although they still do peek through from time to time. “Eclectic,” is a double-edged sword here, though. “Tracy Hardman’s Cheek” is a saccharine pop gem that will undoubtedly get stuck in your head after a few listens. The songs harmonies sound effortlessly catchy, and the sunny instrumentation and bouncing drum beat are perfect accompaniment for a song about puppy love.
On the other hand, “Jesus, Satan, Gene Beeman, His Car, and Pizza Hut” is a song as weird as its title suggests. The song tells the tale of Gene Beeman, a man who shrugs off encounters with both Jesus and Satan and then goes to Pizza Hut for “a Dr. Pepper and a mushroom pizzone.” The song’s lyrics sound even more silly when sung over music fitted for an arcade game. Similarly, “Scaffold Lick” is a pretty instrumental whose pensive piano arrangement suggests a songwriter more talented than the same one who wrote the album’s throwaway track, palm-muted rocker “Line Check.”
Adventure Boy features several guest musicians, such as Suburban Home labelmates Drag the River and members of Reynolds’ band the Bonesaw Romance. Reynolds seems to be at his best, however, when musical virtuoso and member of the Flaming Lips Steven Drozd is in the mix. Drozd plays on four of the album’s tracks, “Tracy Hardman’s Cheek,” the unfortunate “Gene Beeman,” “The Boy Who Stole Your Heart,” and “The Truth Teller’s Soul.” Exclude “Gene Beeman” from the list, and you have the album’s best songs. “The Boy Who Stole Your Heart”‘s pitter-pattering snare brushes and sparse but effective organ and guitar are the perfect soundtrack for lyrics that lament unrequited love. “The Truth Teller’s Soul”‘s fuzzy, chirping synthesizers and bare acoustic strums make for a nice contrast and satisfying album closer.
In a way, Adventure Boy is a gift to Reynolds, both from the people who helped make the album possible and from Scott Reynolds himself. In the album’s liner notes, Reynolds says that he didn’t pay a “red cent” towards making the record and thanks those appearing on the album for helping him “remove and catalogue these slivers of inspiration which have, for too long, remained agonizingly embedded in my spirit.” It would be wise of Reynolds to work with Fridmann and Drozd in the future, as the three clearly have chemistry. If future collaborations between them bear more moments like “Tracy Hardman’s Cheek,” Reynolds may just get the recognition as a songwriter that has eluded him thus far. For right now, though, Adventure Boy is an album made for the maker that has too few moments the rest of us can enjoy.
P.S. Adventure Boy comes packaged with a sample disk from label Suburban Home Records.