By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Quickserv Johnny, to paraphrase the Tom Hanks character in That Thing You Do, is the latest star in the Rainmaker Records galaxy--blasting through the same platinum-filled universe as Deep Blue Something. QJ has already been introduced to statewide radio audiences through "Larry," the hit single from their first Rainmaker CD, Beauty Knows No Pain. Now, with Satellitely, a new album which has already launched an airwaves-friendly tune in "Janitor Man," the quartet seems perfectly positioned for the next level.
Theirs is an innocuous, it's-fun-to-be-in-a-combo brand of rock, the kind of music created by bright college graduates who think that writing tunes and going on tour is more fun than working in the real world. It's a formula which, of late, has fallen under some criticism through bands like Jackopierce or Hootie and the Blowfish. But one should remember that critics' darlings like REM and the Connells represent the same history. And, after all, why shouldn't college guys get to rock just as much as the angst-eaten high school rejects who populate an even larger portion of our record bins?
The bottom line is that whether you're a former frat guy or a skate-punkin' teen anarchist, writing good songs is all that matters. And the guys in Quickserv Johnny--whose adolescent radios surely blasted the Jam and the Ramones just as efficiently as they did Cheap Trick and the Posies--seem to be able to effortlessly ferment a carbonated, strangely poetic batch of steamroller pop.
"Janitor Man" roars out of your speakers like a wrestling match between Offspring's Noodles and Matthew Sweet. It's a perfect, summery radio song, but the choruses in "Since I've Fallen" and "Road Hollow" probably hang with you even longer. Melodist and lead vocalist Matt Thompson has a haunting, yearning way with a hook, and his philosopher-as-Sigma-Chi lyrics are intriguingly literate and evocative, soaring prettily over the group's driving, arpeggio-laced songscapes.
But if anything typifies Quickserv Johnny's sound and collective worldview, it's "Elizabeth's Getting Married," a bittersweet, nostalgic slice of pain about a guy sitting in his car outside the church while an old girlfriend gets married. In the hands of Robert Smith, the protagonist would commit suicide. Green Day would piss on the groom's tux, and Marilyn Manson would simply dismember the entire nuptial entourage. The guy in Quickserv Johnny, though, spins back through his brain's Graduate-inspired scrapbook and no doubt hammers a few cold ones in the peculiar deliciousness of his own solitude--just like any other normal guy.