YOUNG ANTIQUES - Another Risk of the Heart
Young Antiques’ latest, their first album in nearly a decade, is a bold reaffirmation of purpose, an impassioned, hook-laden love letter from singer-guitarist Blake Rainey—to his bandmates, and to the act of making rock & roll itself. Rekindling old flames, as the Atlanta cult trio’s classic touring lineup reunites, Another Risk of the Heart asks the question, “Can cheap and dirty rock & roll, rooted in youth and a lifetime of friendship, age like wine?” The answer comes quick, delivered by the urgently melodic downstroke riff and thundering four-on-the-floor beat of opening track “Euclid Creeper,” and it’s a resounding hell yes.
“Here we go again,” Rainey says. “We’re giving this thing another shot. Getting back together, doing what we do best—having fun, making records.” Young Antiques’ roots run deep. Rainey and bassist Blake Parris—whose harmonies have always been integral to the band’s sound—grew up together in Cedartown, Ga., population 9,000, and have been making music together since the 5th grade.
“Our whole lives have been in tandem,” Rainey says. “We’re best buddies. We constantly talk recording and music. We both have outside projects, but this thing we do with the ‘Tiques is just natural. He can read me like a book. We’ve been singing together since we were kids.”
Another Risk of the Heart is the first Young Antiques album to feature drummer John Speaks (Skirt, The Jody Grind) since their 2004 sophomore LP Clockworker. “Playing with John again, we were able to tap into that original magic we had in the past. Though this time around everybody was a bit more seasoned and comfortable playing together.”
For Another Risk—which features notable guest spots from Chris Lopez (The Rock*A*Teens, Tenement Halls), Kelly Hogan (Neko Case, The Decemberists, Rock*A*Teens, The Jody Grind) and Tom Cheshire (West End Motel, All Night Drug Prowling Wolves)—Young Antiques worked with engineer Tim Delaney, bassist for pop-culture phenom Puddles Pity Party. “What stands out most to me when I think back on the sessions is how efficient and dialed-in we were as a band,” Rainey says. “We came into Tim’s studio, Electron Gardens, and knocked out all the bass and drums, plus a couple guitar parts in a day and a half.”
The rest of the record—the vocals, guitars, keys and additional percussion and flourishes—were completed at Rainey’s home studio Southern Lovers Recording Studios. “We had the best of both worlds—getting great sounds and building a strong foundation at Tim’s studio, and then being able to work off the clock and without distraction at my place. I love working at home. It gives you the time and freedom to get it right. I think that’s why the performances on this record are our best ever.”
While Young Antiques were recording with Delaney at Electron Gardens, their old pals The Rock*A*Teens were also there working with Delaney, laying down tracks for their most recent Merge Records release, Sixth House. The two bands would often run into each other coming and going. “I’ve always been a big fan,” Rainey says. “Next thing I know, Chris Lopez is over at my place with a six pack of beer, and we’re up ‘til 3 in the morning doing backing vocals. It was a blast. Chris has such a great voice, and he’s a hell of a songwriter, too. He likes to do things in an unorthodox way, which is totally cool by us. For “Euclid Creeper,” he didn’t want to sing into the nice mic we had set up, he just wanted to hold an SM57 in his hand and scream into it while he was sitting on the floor.”
Atlanta poet, barfly and rock & roller Tom Cheshire—with whom Rainey plays in All Night Drug Prowling Wolves—also added gang vocals to “Euclid Creeper,” as well as a key spoken-word part and some harmonies on post-apocalyptic political anthem “Armies in the Alley.” And Lopez’s former Rock*A*Teens bandmate Kelly Hogan—who played with Antiques drummer John Speaks in The Jody Grind decades ago—also contributed to Another Risk of the Heart, taking a break from working with Neko Case to lend her always powerful voice to jangly roots-tinged ballad “Going Home.”
Hogan recorded her vocals remotely from Chicago, and also appears remotely in Young Antiques’ video for “Going Home,” which turned out to be eerily prophetic. Shot well before “shelter in place” and “social distancing” became part of the lexicon, the video features Hogan and the band performing the song, each isolated in their own TV screen. “I was talking to director Jeff Shipman when I had the idea,” Rainey says. “We’re all broadcasting in from different places. And now the whole thing suddenly feels very of-the-moment, like we tapped into this new reality in advance.
“And in the wake of the pandemic, who knows what’s going to happen?” Rainey continues. “It makes getting back together with the Young Antiques even more special. If we hadn’t done it when we did, who knows if it ever would have happened again?”
In its early days, rock & roll was made primarily by teenagers and twentysomethings. There was a built-in expiration date—you burned out or you faded away. But as subsequent generations have grown up with the music, the genre stubbornly persisting as it alternately recycles and reinvents itself, that convention has been smashed. Artists from Nick Cave to Dinosaur Jr, Rainey reminds us, are making some of the best rock & roll of their careers.
“Two decades in, the irony of the whole thing—what Young Antiques do from this point forward is definitely going to be better than the music we made when we were younger,” Rainey says. “We’re still feeling inspired. I think as long as you keep your head in the game, as long you’re honest with yourself and honest in your writing, there’s no reason to give it up if you don’t want to. But you still have to have the desire. You have to be hungry for it. A lot of people run out of ideas or just give up. But if you’re still feeling it, if the ideas are still flowing, do it. Do it like you’re 25.”
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The title track from Blake Rainey and His Demons’ latest album, Helicopter Rose, is about rescue, and it’s a theme that carries throughout the new record, one populated with stories of forlorn barflies, tattered relationships, and other hard-luck realities of modern life.
Rainey has earned his share of acclaim over the past 10 years. His previous band, the Young Antiques, won him critical accolades for its rollicking mix of power pop and roots rock, including high marks from SPIN, No Depression, PopMatters, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and more. But it took the Antiques’ dissolution for Rainey to push his songwriting into deeper thematic waters. Citing inspiration from lyricists including Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and Paul Westerberg, Helicopter Rose is checkered with smart wordplay and sharp storytelling in the tradition of his legendary influences.
“I’ve always been drawn to people who write songs that are very unique,” Rainey says. "You want to try and spin a story that you haven’t heard before. Or maybe you’ve heard it before, but there are interesting new twists in the song that make it fresh.”
And this is exactly what Rainey pulls off with Helicopter Rose. While much of the record is rooted in sad-eyed country music fodder, Rainey displays an uncanny knack for turning otherwise painful stories into songs that are, by turns, thought-provoking and amusing. A native Georgian, he grew up with country music staples such as Johnny Cash, George Jones, and Waylon Jennings on the stereo. But with the Young Antique’s power-pop approach, there was little room to incorporate his love of country. After recording and touring with the band, off and on, for more than a decade, Rainey released his first record with the Demons, The Dangerous Summer, in 2007. The Ambulance Alley EP followed in 2009 and the band's sophomore LP effort, Love Don’t Cross Me, followed in 2014.
The first two Demons records found Rainey refining his songwriting style to canvas the full scope of his tastes and influences. Helicopter Rose, though, represents a more deliberate push to find where punk rock meets country, where Merle Haggard crosses paths with The Replacements. It took his backing band of drummer Eric Young, guitarist Aaron Mason, and bassist Joe Foy—a seasoned veteran of New York City’s CBGB punk scene—to bring his eclectic vision to life. Rainey also enlisted the services of revered steel guitar player Steve Stone to give the songs some added country authenticity.
The new video from the album, entitled "Losing My Way," was featured in No Depression in February 2017.
"Everyone needs a good upbeat ditty about being on the right path and possibly needing just a smidgen of validation to that end, especially on a Monday morning. The song emits positivity in melody where the lyrical content is everything but. That is art, my friends." - No Depression
"Much like Warren Zevon and Tom Waits before him, Rainey is the kind of guy that likes singing songs about bad guys from the bad guy's perspective ... he pivots between cabaret, jazz, and big band music all while singing about copping drugs and sneaking into people's houses." - Punk News
"Wrapped in rhythmic twang and an old school radio friendly wail. From the meaty rhythmic guitars to the cryptic chorus, Rainey has molded a track that maintains a modern urgency, while keeping its footing with the indie credibility of his legendary influences." - Glide Magazine
"Trouble on Holiday" is what you'd get if Tom Petty and Nick Lowe sat down together to write a song steeped in the perspectives of someone who's spent their whole life in the Deep South." - Nooga Magazine