FDF Volume 2 Issue 186 - Gwen Mars - Driving a Million
Album - Driving A Million
Artist - Gwen Mars (sometimes all one word)
Key Players - John Boutin - drums. Matt Westfield - bass and backing vocals. Michael Thrasher - guitar and lead vocals.
Produced By - Gwenmars and others per track.
Release Date - Fall of 2001
What caused me to blow off the dust? - I was looking for an idea for this week, and just started looking...and saw their two cds..just decided for no real reason to go with this one.
Overview - Sorta blending grunge and glam Gwen Mars would release two records to not a lot of fan fare. The first album would spawn a very minor college radio hit in "Cosmic Dick" but the band would take a few years before the follow up and by then the music industry was seeming to go in a different direction than what the band was doing. From what I can gather they are officially disbanded.
FDF Comments (aka the songs) - A short buzzy feed back starts up "Neon Tom". The music is slow and vocals are distorted, but it has a certain bounce to it. It keeps a basic rock feel to it, with the vocals working with backing tracks. Its a decent album opener and sets the listener up for what is in store. Acoustic guitars open "She Hung the Moon" a track that is full of strings but the vocals are compressed once more. The band doesn't even really come up until the chorus, and even then the bass and drums are not a big part of it. They use the sting section to fill it out. They never break that mold, but seem to show they are capable of spreading their wings, even in a place like this where the core members are largely left out. "Radio Gun" is another buzzy affair, with swirly guitars as well, and the vocals are less compressed and they tend to soar over the top a little more. The end is a big pay off as it kicks it up more and seems to get louder and more chaotic. "Venus" jumps right out at you with buzzy bass and a frantic keyboard and it just rips. It actually is a guitar doing all the work, and it goes from this feel, to the really super buzzy guitar. It is frantic throughout and very strong track. The music is a little more crisp and focused on "Come Here". Acoustic guitars appear when the verse is sung and its a welcome change on the record. We get back to the bigger guitar sound on "Hurry Up". Once again its noisy, but when the vocals start the acoustic guitar appears and tandems off the electric guitars. Boutin is pretty basic on the drums, but hits them hard and has for the entirety of the record. The guitar riff that is tossed out at the tail end of the chorus should have been used more, or in a more prominent roll, it has just that great blend of crunch and urgency to it. "Train Song" is another real shining moment as the band works the buzzy guitar and frantic drum beat. They use some poppy guitar chops as well you'd hear on some albums from years older. The stand out track for me personally is "Electro". The guitars, the buzzy vocals, the soaring chorus...I implore you to download this one..you'll get it.
"Strawberry Ice" has a ZZTop feel on guitar as it starts. The guitars bass and drums all are choppy, punching it up a notch. The band is on a roll here and the last few songs are setting the bar high (perhaps a strong place would have been earlier on the record?). The call and response on the frantic chorus is a strong touch. "Lisa Candy" is similar to what you've been hearing. The guitars are slow to build off the rim shot slow build of the drums. After part of the first verse is done it picks up, but quickly changes back to the tempo from the start. It gets more aggressive as the track draws to a close with a quick run of the guitar a few times. The album closes with "The Race". The bass is up more in the mix, and you can hear it working more, even if it is not overly complex. The guitars work to a long and steady build. This is about as much a ballad as the band would offer up. Thrasher doesn't vary is vocal delivery much at all on this or other tracks, yet they seem to blend, and work at all the right times. Its the lighter side of the band, but a strong album closer.
Where are they now? - I am not really sure. There is no Wiki page, a facebook fan page is out there with less than 40 members. Their official site has long been shuttered and a myspace page doesn't appear to be run by the band. I've also put each guy in a search and haven't found really anything. If anyone knows or has info let me know and I'll gladly update.
FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I saw the band one time in an opening slot for Catherine Wheel at Club Babyhead on Providence on September 1, 1995. They were pretty strong live, and by the end the few that arrived early to catch them seemed to really dig them.
FDF Overall Take - There are some very strong points on the record and the band is has a great sound and vibe to them, but I am not sure much would translate to today's music scene. It has the buzzy rocking side, but also hard rock drone to it as well. Its a mixed bag, not a terrible record that is for sure.
The band on myspace.
Curious? Check out some MUSIC!
Tracks taken from "Driving A Million" which, although out of print you can still find for purchase here.
Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.