Don't you love it when a band manages to have a unique sound, creative songs, and comes out of left field to smack you in the head? Chicago-based AM Taxi is a young band that manages to mix punk with modern pop, offering their experiences with modern arrangements. It's impossible for me to believe that these guys have been playing together less than two years.
AM Taxi was formed about two years ago by a trio of musical pals – singer/songwriter Adam Krier, drummer Chris Smith, and bassist Jason Schultejann. They produced their first EP – Runaway Songs – and were then joined by brothers John and Luke Schmitt on guitar and keyboards. After another EP – The Good, The Bad and The Fed Up – they were ready to tackle a major-label (Virgin Records) debut We Don't Stand a Chance. They worked with producer Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Patty Griffin, and You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead) to capture the way they sounded doing live performances while in the studio.
And I think their album title says it all. But the "We" in this case is the throngs of fans they're going to attract as they release this album, play locally in Chicago, and go on the Vans Warped Tour. "We" really don't stand a chance.
Starting with "Dead Street," they lay down an infectious beat with emotional punch as they describe the fate of people stuck in our current economy. "Dead Street" is a place where there aren't any jobs and you can't find a way to improve your situation. "All the strung-out kids on Dead Street / Gave her directions and a fix / She's got money left for the ticket out / She'd rather drink 'til she don't exist…" That about says it all. Is there a way out in some of these industrial areas that were clobbered when they economy crashed?
The album continues with "The Mistake" which merges almost spoken-word poetry with some vicious electric guitars, a light keyboard melody and drum beat in the background. Again, the lyrics say it all as the person being sung to is told over and over that hanging out with the singer is a bad idea that may lead to a worse end… "I am the truth you couldn't take, I am the mistake / Worst you ever made…" Not cheerful by any stretch, yet expressive in the extreme telling the story again of someone stuck in a life who clings to even bad decisions to avoid change.
But my favorite song on the album is the duet "Maydays and Rosaries" between lead singer Krier and the singer of Company Of Thieves, Genevieve Schatz. Where "Dead Street" and "The Mistake" call out to the despair of certain situations, this song cries out to the hope inherent in love that must be acted on or lost. As he says – "I'd love to hear your voice." And she says "I wouldn't even know what to say." It's that precipice between decision and indecision – that paralysis – where we sometimes watch good things slip away.
These guys know how to play the angry/punk card and the gentle/romantic card with deep, emotion-packed lyrics and powerful arrangements evoking particular feelings in the listener. I hear aspects of many other bands I've liked over the years – Dishwalla, Snow Patrol, Better than Ezra… – brought into the realm of today's music with some definite punk sensibilities. AM Taxi speaks the truth as they see the world and that no-compromise approach will win them a lot of fans.
If you're looking for a new sound to jam to this summer, take a listen to AM Taxi's We Don't Stand a Chance (available June 8, 2010) and catch up with them on tour. In the meantime, check out their MySpace page to listen to some of their tunes and get details about upcoming dates!