Rock radio is in a sorry state. And while bemoaning the homogeneity and limited scope of commercial radio is hardly a bold stance to take, we speak here more of the so-called “classic rock” format than the lost cause that is “modern rock.” While modern rock languishes in the dregs of the post-Pearl Jam ’90s, classic rock finds itself limited by its own misnomer.
Given the definition of the word classic is something lasting and influential, to limit the format merely to ’70s album-oriented rock and the occasional Beatles hit leaves out not only the pre-Beatles legends — when was the last time you heard some Buddy Holly mixed into your Skynyrd and Queen rock block? — but also influential rock acts outside the AOR spectrum — The Clash, Ramones, Velvet Underground, or Brian Eno, anyone?
So one must infer that the classic rock tag has little to do with critical reception, or even a particular music’s impact on its era beyond popularity — Boston is still big, right? — and is instead a self-aggrandizing sonic marker placed onto the guitar-centric rock that one might associate with the late-’60s and ’70s. This should allow for the inclusion of new artists on classic rock playlists, new artists such as the Washington state quartet The Lonely H (based just outside of Seattle in Port Angeles).
While the band’s members are barely old enough to buy beer, in sound and appearance, the band might as well have arrived from a hermetically-sealed jar dated 1976. The foursome’s uniform of long hair and flared jeans matches perfectly the crunchy riffs and harmonic guitar solos that fuel its music. This year’s Concrete Class (The Control Group), the band’s third effort, plays at times like The Eagles, all smooth and hooky, and at times like Molly Hatchet or Thin Lizzy. And one wouldn’t be remiss hearing splinters of T. Rex, Black Sabbath, and Neil Young in The Lonely H’s songs. But this blend of influences proves to be a synthesis, giving the band a feeling less like a tribute act, and more like a period revival.
Even so, you’ll never hear this band on your classic rock station. For no matter how closely singer/keyboardist Mark Fredson, guitarist Eric Whitman, drummer Ben Eyestone, and bassist Johnny Whitman would fit in a playlist between The Marshall Tucker Band and The Doobie Brothers, they’re cursed by youth — which is sublimely ironic in the youth-worshipping annals of rock ‘n’ roll. But that’s the paradox of the classic rock format. It’s not sure if it’s a critical designation or a genre. And for the time being, it fails at both.
That said, fans of this so-called classic rock sound will likely find more than plenty to love in The Lonely H, and it’s a shame the radio is neglecting to make the introduction.