When at Last We Saw the Sunrise
The trajectory of a Pittsburgh band can take many roads: low-key gigs, big time concerts, CD releases, breakups, along with shots at “making it,” whatever that means. Jason Kendall — formerly of the band Déjà Vu and now a regular at AcoustiCafe — tackles the subject with this ambitious concept album. Fictional protagonist JC Pennypacker starts a band (the Rye) with high school friends, eventually finding local success, only to reinvent himself as an industrial rocker and eventually fake his death. Though it might all be a dream.
Packaged like an overview of Pennypacker’s career, with an illustrated booklet, the disc covers a lot of ground. The Rye songs are the strongest, meeting at the corner of Guided By Voices-style indie rock and commercial alternative hope. It’s hard to tell if the NIN-type tracks by Phoebe Carousel (Pennypacker’s alter ego) are supposed to be parodies, and with titles like “Woman is the Deadliest Species,” one might hope. Though the album’s conclusion borrows a key phrase from a famous similar Green Day song, Kendall has nevertheless created a noble project.