No band wears their influences on its short sleeves more than the Sugar Free Allstars (SFAs). In fact, there were so many inspirations for their new self-titled CD, SUGAR FREE ALLSTARS that the duo included an "album listening guide" to document them.
The 11 songs on the new collection draw from (yet are not limited to) the affects of Chris "Boom" Wiser and Rob "Dr. Rock" Martin being exposed to Eric Clapton, barbershop quartets, Grandmaster Flash, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, the Muppets, Prince, Black Sabbath, and Paul Revere and the Raiders. I've missed a few dozen more. But the SFAs distill these disparate elements and generate danceable 21st century kid's music from the heartland (Oklahoma, to be precise).
It's always fascinating when musicians release original music, cite who they hear from their perspective, and compare and contrast to what we hear as unbiased, home audiences. For instance, the SFAs reference the Meters for "I Can See It Now," whereas I sensed a strong Leon Redbone vibe. The latest Muppets incarnation on ABC is fighting for its life. But the Paul Williams-penned "Can You Picture That?" is going strong in its fifth decade, if you can believe it. Tom Hanks' directorial debut "That Thing You Do" was not a breakout hit. Yet I put songs from the soundtrack on different tapes over the years. [Fun side facts – Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger ghost-wrote the title track and Katy Perry later covered Fountains' HACKENSACK.] But I digress. If Fountains was still around, they would be proud to call UPSIDE DOWN TOWN one of its own songs.
Diversity has become the linchpin of most programming, counter-programming, and world initiatives directed at young audiences. The SFAs use a slightly different take, calling their third CD the duo's "most ambitious album to date." Wiser and Martin spent four years (between family time and live performances) honing the tracks, which offer as much diversity as your typical Spotify randomizer. The SFAs are drive-by kindie auteurs. The semi-biographical "Monster Truck" depicts the bond of manchild and machine (along with a fantasy interlude with said child and vehicle listening to Air Supply and watching sad movies – no spoilers!).
If anything, it's hard to clamp a label (funky! quirky!) onto a band that morphs its sound from song to song. Wiser's keyboard and Martin's drumming provide a resonant one-two punch behind every number. Similar to Molly Ledford (Lunch Money), you can picture the guys smiling from ear-to-ear as they sing the preposterous "Grumpopotamus (and the Crankosaurus Rex)" with guest vocalist Genevieve Goings (Choo Choo Soul). The SFAs are not a band to look back in anger, except to motivate themselves to get every single listener on their feet. With the Sugar Free Allstars' latest release, that's an ambition worth sharing.
SUGAR FREE ALLSTARS is available on April 2 from the band's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.
Here is the debut video from SUGAR FREE ALLSTARS' new CD, for the song "Monster Truck":