Frank Brownstone & Associates is not a stock brokerage firm. Nor are these guys attorneys (well, two actually are). They do, however, possess a devilish affinity for tongue-and-cheek. Their debut album was titled First Annual Report to Investors, and the new one, Better Days, features a cover shot of the boys hunkered around a desk, apparently having just fed a paper shredder (from the expressions on their faces, not a minute too soon).
What they are is one ungodly rock ’n’ roll band in the tradition of Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Roy Orbison, and cats like that. They have sharp, down-to-earth lyrics, red-hot licks and cast-iron chops—but they never overblow. With passion, taste, and plain old good judgment, they hold back enough to not overwhelm…they’re content with simply blowing you away.
There’s actually nobody in the band named Frank Brownstone. The associates are Garth Morrisette (vocals, guitar), Tony Mendoza (bass, vocals), Ben Connelly (guitar), Steve Hurinenko (drums), Dan Lipschultz (keys), and Carlos “Big Man” Mendoza (sax). Each and every one of ‘em is born to burn. If there’s any justice, they’ll get sufficient exposure and go national. For now, Twin Citians can be thankful that Frank Brownstone & Associates are here raising hell in our own backyard.
You’ll find yourself dancing your asterisk off by the time the smart-ass lyrics hit you.
“Don’t Mention Love,” from Better Days, has CHART-TOPPING HIT scrawled all over it in block letters. My introduction to the band, it stopped me dead one afternoon as I was channel-surfing and paused at KARE 11’s Showcase Minnesota. It’s hard to come across well on the tube—even the best bands tend to sound tinny on television. FB&A, though, sounded great as they delivered this dyed-in-the-wool rockabilly ballad with a world of heart and soul. Also on Better Days, there’s my you-can’t-tell-me-nothin’-‘bout-it favorite “Bit by a Dog,” featuring a sardonic vocal over a rippling, funked-up bass line complemented by a sweetly screaming lead guitar. “In another life,” it goes, “I coulda been a king/ In another life, I coulda been something.” The groove is irrefutable evidence that rock ’n’ roll is a soul brother to the blues.
First Annual Report to Investors ain’t hardly no slouch, neither. “The Day Blows By,” for instance, is another chart-ready winner. Wizened and rhythm-rich, it lays in with lines like, “Now I know that yesterday/ Was nothing but a sham/ The politicians all complain/ That I am who I am.” “Loud and Out of Tune” is a hip-shrugging hoot—you’ll find yourself dancing your asterisk off by the time the smart-ass lyrics hit you. “Johnny’s out touring the country/ He opens for all the big acts/ It’s like he was struck by lightning/ He got there so damn fast.” The chorus sums up, “It must be great to play and cop an attitude/ The songs he’s paid to play/ Are loud and out of tune.” Go ahead and say you can’t tell where that’s coming from!
First Annual Report to Investors and Better Days on Foxberry Records. You want to go to the store and reach for your wallet.
Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.