A few well-established members of Chicago’s budding music scene have released a new album that is, at times, light-hearted and upbeat, yet dark and menacing. Marrow’s debut album The Gold Standard frequently adjusts your headspace, solidifying it as an extremely well-rounded rock album.
Marrow was created from the backbone of Kids These Days, a purebred Chicago rock/rap group that split in 2013. In Kids These Days, guitarist Liam Kazar, keyboardist Macie Stewart and bassist Lane Beckstrom primarily provided the framework for now Roc-A-Fella Records recording artist Vic Mensa to rap over. But in Marrow, Kazar, Stewart and Beckstrom now have the opportunity to shine under “The Gold Standard.” Add drummer Matt Carroll to the mix, and Marrow is a group of old and new faces showing off diverse songwriting that perhaps has been bottled up for quite some time.
The Gold Standard kicks off with a fun track called “She Chose You.” It’s the kind of song that evokes the image of cruising in your car on the first sunny, warm day of spring. Your windows are rolled down and, beaming with optimism, you bop your head to this song as you watch the snow melt off the street lights and fall to the ground. Meanwhile, Cunningham sings a refrain reminding you brighter days are coming. “She chose you//She chose you//She chose you//And it’s not so bad for long”.
Track three, “Paulson”, is clearly the banger from the album that Marrow would bust out at a show. It’s fast-paced and the most punk-sounding song of them all. Stewart shows off her vocal chops, wailing during the chorus. Because of its energy, “Paulson” will probably become one of Marrow’s most well-liked songs.
Track four, the title track, starts off sleepy but slaps you in the face about half way through, just in case you dosed off. It then transitions to “Ocean of Glory”, which has a bright, positive tone just like “She Chose You.” At almost 8 1/2 minutes, “Ocean of Glory” takes on a bit of a progressive rock sound toward the end. Because of the song’s length, catchiness and interesting genre transition, it’s definitely a highlight from the album. If “She Chose You” and “Ocean of Glory” end up becoming your favorite songs on the album, then you’ll also dig “Corsicana.” These three tracks’ similar head-bopping, foot-tapping, singsongy vibe perhaps display a fun, uplifting songwriting style we may see more of from Marrow in the future.
Remaining tracks like “Leave It on the Side,” “Leave Grounds Stay,” and “Cities” are great displays of songs from Marrow that couldn’t have existed in Kids These Days. These are some of the ballads of the album, but they’re never too sappy. The first two pick up a bit of moment toward the end, much like Wilco tends to do.
The Gold Standard really covers the spectrum. At no point does it become monotonous or trite. At no point do you feel like you’ve really figured the band out. The album constantly evolves. Marrow appears to be busting at the seams with creativity, and those familiar with Kazar, Stewart and Beckstrom’s previous work with Kids These Days will be pleased to see sides of them emerge on this album that maybe weren’t allowed to shine before.
-Review by Tom Moran