Summer is a time for embarking on adventure and expanding horizons. Syracuse psycho-funk group The New Daze have been increasing their ear drum influence by regularly touring throughout New York, wrapping up a July residency at Funk ‘N Waffles downtown, and just releasing their third studio album, Give Them Laughter. Recorded in Ontario, NY at The Green Room, this is the first studio project for Steve Graf (drums) and Erik Hoffman (keyboard), with senior members Max Flansburg (guitar/vocals) and Jamie Knittel (bass) rounding out the quartet.
The New Daze are known for their articulate, psychedelic, disco-driven jams featuring consistently solid instrumentation and wacky effects interspersed with metaphoric yet relatable lyrics. The musicians aren’t afraid to get silly, sometimes crafting elaborate back stories to provide a whimsically rich context for their music. Take, for instance, Uncle Stremnf, the zebra mascot who often appears on stage in stuffed animal form and serves as a central part of their new album artwork.
Give Them Laughter embodies the highly danceable and imaginative foundation of The New Daze but also traverses all corners of the musical map, exploring the realm of reggae while retaining a trademark funkiness with the first track, “Pumpkins.” Flansburg’s warm vocals add richness to the tune before it breaks away with a zippy instrumental jam. The first half of “Disasterpiece” bears striking familiarity to a peppy Disney number featuring Knittel on vocals before it too picks up speed, expanding into a noble duet of guitar and keys before Knittel repeatedly decrees, “Life is meant to celebrate, even when it’s a disaster.” It’s almost impossible to not crack a smile as the song concludes with this devil-may-care notion. Flansburg resumes command on vocals for “Send It,” eliciting a more sophisticated, scratchy soulfulness which conveys a youthful crossbreed of Randy Newman and Stevie Ray Vaughn.
“Face Paint” inhabits the album as a one-and-a-half minute tornado of circus-like effects swirling with spurts of heavy drumming, guitar and organ. It serves as an enticing interlude before “Mr. Bonzai,” the longest track on the album at almost fourteen minutes long. This extended track offers a sonic patchwork stitching together techno, jazz and rock elements, at times evoking the muted melancholy of Pink Floyd. The album concludes with “Sunroof Cop,” culminating in the most intense jam on the album, giving listeners one final chance to freak out before the last thirty seconds of book end to the album with a slew of cartoon-like voices reinforcing the nonsensical nature of The New Daze.
Key Tracks: Send It, Mr. Bonzai, Sunroof Cop