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The Propellers stay the course on The Propellers: 2
By CHRIS CONTI  |  May 13, 2009

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The Warren-based Propellers are yet another notable band putting in work for the Warren-based label 75OrLess Rec-ords, and their sophomore release, The Propellers: 2, offers a gradual growth from their self-titled debut: break out the synths and Glockenspiel this time around, as the quartet have expanded their sound and perhaps etched a nice niche within the "piano-driven" rock genre.

That term gives 75OrLess founder (and Six Star General bassist) Mark MacDougall the creeps. "I think the general perception of piano/keyboard players resides in piano bars where a bunch of bozos drink beer and sing their hearts out to songs that make my skin crawl," MacDougall said. "Hearing the Propellers for the first time made me realize not every band led by a piano player has to sound like Ben Folds. In some other universe, the track 'Man On Edge' is a number-one hit, but in our world Tom Chace has to grin and bear the fact that people just don't get it."

"Edge," along with "Crop Circles" and "Colt State," makes their debut worth picking up (at 75orlessrecords.com). The new disc is more evolved, as Chace, with brother Bob Chace on guitar, Baltimore transplant Mike Hoff on drums, and longtime friend David Tessier on bass, have hit his stride, albeit with a recording budget of $0.

"We recorded it literally in a 10'x10' Central Falls basement in the dead of summer, and the ceiling was, no lie, 5'10," " Chace recalled. "We discussed using a studio, but settled on decent microphones and Dave's formidable collection of vintage gear to get the job done, and we decided early on to approach it more as a larger conceptual piece, so the DIY approach really afforded us the time and breathing room to creatively attack the record.

"We're all type-A personalities, which has more ups than downs in the creative process," he said. "There's definitely no room for pussying around in this band." When asked to describe the sound, Chace cracked, "Pink Floyd meets Wilco at Lou Reed's salon." Makes sense, though, particularly on songs such as "Lifted" and "Fantasy." And keep the Magnetic Fields and Sparklehorse in mind when giving "Fun" a spin. "Roundabout Train" is a stirring, synth-driven tale of murder, while "She's Not Alright" sounds comically close to the Killers' "When You Were Young." The woozy and stirring two-part lullaby "Worry" bookends the album, with Chace's filtered vocals bouncing along with the metal xylophone: "What, me worry? I got time to pay the bills/I'm sleepy, where'd I put those fucking pills/Oh honey, I can't see you, I got no gas money."

Chace concedes that superstardom is difficult to obtain in Li'l Rhody, but they bring the heat when hitting the stage and do whatever it takes to capture the audience.

"I see bands play out around here that just want to be local weekend warriors and it shows in the performance," Chace chided. "They look bored, or they're wearing sweatpants or whatever.

"Sometimes, when we're playing some dive bar out in West Warwick where nobody knows us, I tell the locals we're from Helsinki, on the first leg of our world tour," Chace said. "We all have a laugh and people pay attention.

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