Remember The Kick? A good ole boys, rock ‘n roll band out of Winter Park, Florida? Chances are you don’t, or they would probably still be a band today. I had the good fortune of catching them on a tour with Anberlin in 2004, and ever since then I have been hooked. When I heard they were breaking up a short while later, I was more than a little disappointed.
But not long after, my sadness was quickly tempered when I discovered that a new band had already risen from their ashes (and those of Squad Five-O, Dear Ephesus and a few others) and signed to Mono vs. Stereo Records. The Kick was apparently gone, but not forgotten after all: Gasoline Heart was born, and their debut album is You Know Who You Are.
Okay, to be fair, lead singer Louis DeFabrizio is the only remaining Kick member (although, especially towards the end, The Kick had an ever-evolving lineup, so perhaps that is not quite technically true) – but Gasoline Heart is still The Kick to me. This new band has got the same essence, the same soul. I didn’t want to go here but, umm, well … the same heart.
I loved The Kick for the same reason I love Gasoline Heart—they aren’t ashamed to wear their passion on their collective sleeve. There is no posturing, no makeup or costumes, and there are no pretensions. All they’ve got is five guys playing honest rock ‘n roll. And it rings truer and rocks louder than all the Panics and Chemical Romances and Ferdinands you can shake your favorite pair of tiny girl pants at.
Another thing this band wears on its sleeve is its influences. Tom Petty, The Who, Whiskeytown, Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, The Replacements and The Counting Crows all peek their heads out at different points throughout the record along with a healthy does of straightforward rock ‘n roll attitude. But this doesn’t mean the record seems like it has already been done, slugging through a style that has been beaten to death for 30 years. It has a certain nostalgic feel to it to be sure, but Gasoline Heart possesses the enviable ability to recombine its influences into something that has become uniquely its own.
This is a band that seems to dwell in contradiction, and the first of these is that its debut record (made by old friends and industry veterans) has the distinct feel of a brand-new classic.
The spiritual leanings of the album’s lyrics are tied up in contradictions as well. The first track, “Move Along,” proclaims the lines, So I found the answers / Or at least I found a set of keys / But all these doors they open, they all lead back to me—and then, in a later verse, I’ve been talking to Jesus / I asked him if He’s ever upset with God / He said who are you to ask these things / I said asking doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Are these lyrics supposed to be blasphemous? Just poetic? A reflection of an honest search? I’m leaning toward the latter, but nothing’s certain here.
The second track, “Cheers (Here’s to Life),” toes that line even further, with the speaker likening himself to “a young girl in the back of a church who says ‘Mom, do you really believe all this, because I just feel numb’.” But the song is about hope, about never giving up, despite what doubts and difficulties life might throw your way.
The way I see it, this is just how DeFabrizio and company would like it: raising the big questions without necessarily proposing any answers. Causing their audience to think and question rather than just blindly accept or reject what they’ve been fed.
Two great songs on the album, though, don’t really deal with any of these heavy themes are “All the Way” (a return and re-recording of The Kick’s greatest hit) and “Steam (A Well Dried Up)” are both straight-up rockers about living life to its fullest and following your passions as far as they’ll go. “Kiss Off” closes the album with these same themes, but in a more intimate, acoustic package. Live though, the band performs this tune with just as much rock as swagger as anything they’ve written yet: Louis’ veins popping out of his head and sweat dripping off his dome, voice scratchy with feeling in all the right places and giving the audience the impression that he will keep on singing until his voice finally goes hoarse for good.
This kind of commitment is what Gasoline Heart is all about, and You Know Who You Are is a perfect encapsulation of where they are coming from. It is the story of growing older—of falling in love and caring about other people, of searching spiritually, of living with passion, of staying true to oneself. It’s about caring about the big questions but remembering that the little things sometimes matter more; it’s about getting the most out of every minute of life and never looking back. If you can live life like a Gasoline Heart record, you’re on the right track.