The best: Local group shows how it's done

Ted Stryker's Drinking Problem is, in my estimation, the best live group in Charlottesville. I say that without hesitation, or need for further qualification– and I have no problem providing them with a sound bite to be used for landing better shows at better venues in far-away towns– something along the lines of, "I've seen the rest, Ted Stryker's is the best."

Even people at a Ted Stryker show who are not particularly enamored with the group's pseudo-early '80s style New Wave/synth-pop must at some point admit that there is something really special going on up on the stage. It's some un-quantifiable mix of youthful energy (most of the band are barely 20), a rabid fan base, the strongest batch of songs I've ever heard in a local group in any town, and a good helping of that certain something that separates good bands from the greats.

Listening to Ted Stryker's Drinking Problem's debut CD, The Pneumatic Transit System, is, of course, a different experience from the group's live show, but at least some of what makes the band so great comes through in the disc's seven tracks. You get the same youthful energy, the devil-may-care tales of being young and lost (and seemingly addicted to life in the '80s), but most importantly you get the songs.

The CD's second track, "3832," is like manna from heaven. With a nod to the whirling keyboards of '80s hair-weavers A Flock of Seagulls, the song is one of the group's many possible future hits. The beginning combination of vocalist/keyboardist Jay Purdy's synth triplets and Max Fritz's staccato guitar is fabulous, and once Purdy starts singing, everything gets even better.

"This is my skin it's what I'm in nowhere to start so let's begin/You have a gun get in line one the party's only just begin," he begins, to a melody most musicians would give their lives to have written.

Song six, "We Were Goonies Once," should put a smile on the face of anyone under 30, combining lyrics that help us old folk recall the wonderment of those far gone days with instrumentation and melody that would fit well on The Cars' greatest hits.

The one thing I have to say about the CD is the production is not what I'd call best suited for the group. Although the tracks are free of hiss, and the levels are fine, everything is just too sterile, too separated. Part of what makes the group so good live must reside in the players' interactions with each other, and this does not come across well on the recording. Also, harmonies or doubled lead vocals on the choruses would be welcome, helping make them stand out more.

If you possess a good local recording studio, I would say consider offering Ted Stryker's Drinking Problem your skills at drastically reduced or pro-bono rates. With a recording that shows off their strengths, they would almost certainly make it– and you would be the person who helped them on their way.