The mod-looking arrows and the splashes of bright red, blue and white on the Aviation Blondes' new Edge of Forever CD don't look too out-of-character for Get Hip, the local label that has kept all-things-garage alive over the past 20-plus years. A few seconds into the disc, though, it's clear this band isn't your typical Get Hip act. The opening track, "Catch and Release," has plenty of crunch in the guitars, but the music is fueled by classic pop hooks and steered by the tight harmonies of two dames who have a reputation for such vocal performances.
Lexi Rebert and Jen Fisher performed sexy cabaret music in Salena Catalina throughout the early '00s. After meeting Steve Morrison in the 2005 Tribute to WXXP at the Rex Theatre, the two began helping the guitarist with a solo CD that he was trying to finish. A veteran of several local bands, including the Affordable Floors and Fusebox, Morrison had returned to town from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
Along with the singers, Morrison called upon friends from the tribute show to back him up: bassist Rod Schwartz (of The 11th Hour), guitarist Daryl Cross (The Joyce Brothers) and drummer Dave Klug (SPUDS, Hector in Paris). (All four had also played in an '80s cover band called Saturday's Kids.) While the solo disc never materialized, the thrown-together group came up with a wealth of new material.
Many of the songs are penned by Morrison, but he, Rebert and Schwartz receive credit for "Catch and Release." Though the lyrics might seem to be about being a loose woman, "it's about the crap that female bartenders have to deal with," says Morrison, and written from the perspective of Rebert, a bartender. "It's meant to be kind of a feminist retelling of 'Brandy, You're a Fine Girl,' by Looking Glass. How would that story play out if Brandy had told it herself? And of course it's very different."
Morrison still gives himself the occasional lead vocal (the contemplative "Duet by Myself"), but his words are typically voiced by either Rebert or Fisher. However, there's no set approach. "Sometimes I'll just write a song the usual way and bring it to the band and we'll decide who should sing it. Other times we'll specifically write a song with Lexi or Jen in mind," he says.
One example, written for Fisher's voice, is "Don't Look Down," which recalls the sleek, jazzy influence of '80s Brits The Style Council -- complete with a four-piece horn section. "I wanted to try to give Jen something to sink her teeth into and she really ran with it," Morrison says. Meanwhile, the influence of Style Council's precursor, The Jam, comes across in "Pretend," a rave-up penned by Schwartz. Factor in the anthemic title track (which includes a chorus of nine friends chiming in on the refrain), and the Aviation Blondes cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
Although it's only seven songs and 27 minutes long, Morrison calls Edge of Forever a short album, as opposed to an EP. "These seven songs had a nice flow to us and it felt right, so we went with it," he says. "We have basic tracks for a ton more songs recorded, but we decided to get something out now, even if it is kind of an odd length."
Though the band brings a new style to Get Hip, Morrison doesn't feel like it's sending the label in a new direction. "They have different kinds of bands," he says, "including power pop like Paul Collins. That's probably where we fit: a little more on the pop side of Get Hip's roster. Although I think we can rock up a storm when we want to."
Collins actually connected the band with Get Hip after it opened for the '80s power-pop star last May, impressing label-owner Gregg Kostelich. This weekend, it all comes together when Collins and Kostelich and his Cynics bandmate Michael Kastelic play the Blondes' release show. The Angry Francis and Seven Color Sky round out the bill.
Aviation Blondes with Gregg Kostelich and Michael Kastelic of The Cynics, The Angry Francis, Seven Color Sky and Paul Collins. 7:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 14. Rex Theatre, 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. $10 ($12 day of show). 412-381-6811 or www.rextheatre.com