The New Lost Souls are indeed a family band. Guitarist Chris Teasley met wife Sara, the band’s drummer, when they both exhibited paintings at a local gallery opening. Sara studied painting at the Kansas City Art Institute. After travels that included a five-year residence in Boston (where Chris studied art), the couple returned to Kansas City. They wooed Sara’s brother, bassist Andy Jordan, from New York to play in the group.
What started as a few friends blasting old Kinks songs gradually became a band devoted to writing and arranging original material. Unwanted Gold, the New Lost Souls’ debut, isn’t a knock your socks off at first listen record. Sometimes, frankly, those records fade quickly. Unwanted Gold is a grower, an album whose modest charms grow on you as you gradually appreciate what a steady, smart, rocking piece of work it is.
“Happy Tune” opens Unwanted Gold with authority. Sara Teasley’s loose, but driving drumming (she also plays with K.C.’s Cave Girls) powers the band. Chris’s has a guitar tone that’s warm and distorted at the same time. I definitely hear his avowed Dave Davies and Steve Marriott influences, but his sound also betrays a roadhouse meets punk bite that’s equal parts Johnny Winter, Tony McPhee and Billy Zoom. On the instrumental title track he sounds like a guy who has listened to both the MC5 and Wes Montgomery, to say nothing of a vibrato attack that sounds like he once spent time mastering Ted Nugent’s solo on “Journey to the Center of the Mind.” As a singer Chris definitely evidences a little Ray Davies love. You can also tell he probably grooved on the Yardbirds' Keith Relf and Black Francis (Pixies). And he shares with Wall of Voodoo’s Stan Ridgeway and the Tube’s Fee Waybill a certain wry, wiseacre quality, sometimes sounding like some wisecracking carny, luring kids into the booth with the bearded lady or the frog boy.
‘Home and Dry” is a nice minor key ballad with Teasley sounding a little like Reigning Sound’s Greg Cartwright, the song itself resembling that band’s “Love Won’t Leave You a Song.” The band sounds best when Sarah joins in on harmonies. Her simple ‘hey hey hey’ harmony on the chorus of “Walkin’ Down the Street” gives the song a nice John Doe/Exene quality, while her nonchalant trading of lines on “Knockout” makes that riff-rocker stand out with its Ike and Tina go Pixies punk growl. The psychedelicized bridge is a nice touch, too.
While most of these songs are New Lost Souls originals, the band flashes some deep rock knowledge with their choices in covers. For the Nazz’s “Open My Eyes” Chris nails Todd Rundgren’s riff so well you barely miss Stewkey’s organ counterpoint (although they should probably correct the spelling of Todd’s name on any future pressings … it’s not Rungren). The New Lost Souls also serve up a roaring version of the Rutles' “Goose Step Mama,” a hard rocking Beatles pastiche with fun “bop bop shoo wop” vocals and a totally Fabs' bridge.
Unwanted Gold, like a lot of local d.i.y.(‘do it yourself’) releases, sounds like what would have constituted a really good demo back in the day when recording and releasing your own music wasn’t quite such an affordable and doable proposition.
For that matter the band themselves make no pretenses about the album being anything other than a three-day knock-it-out recording session. But they have nothing to explain really, In terms of tunes, talent and hard rocking fun Unwanted Gold stacks up well next to 95% of the records I’m getting from larger independent labels in 2011. Of course it’s way better than most major label releases. Almost all of those suck these days, right? The New Lost Souls may seem a little meat and potatoes to the ironic mustache crowd. I’ll tell you, though – it’s tasty stuff, well seasoned.