Get Back at the Shack

The long-time solo artist and the four musicians in Humbert found common ground in their love for the seminal rock and roll of the Sixties and Seventies. The influences of groups such as Cheap Trick, the Beatles, Badfinger, the Who, Led Zeppelin, Electric Light Orchestra, the Beach Boys, and Supertramp had, in their eyes, been largely abandoned by most artists in the Nineties. The quintet believed it was time for a return to those groups' superior brand of musicality. "A lot of what's lacking in rock these days," suggests Cintron, "is classic songwriting, the pop songwriting sensibilities that were there when rock began. That's missing now. This band brings a little bit of that back. A lot of that back, actually."

He's not exaggerating. A rough mix of Humbert's upcoming debut, to be humorously titled Humbert (so the CD spine reads "Humbert Humbert"), simply oozes with old-school classicism, updated by a very capable and devoted team of multi-instrumentalist writers and performers. Big chords and even bigger harmonies support near-perfect melodies. Clever key changes and subtly advanced arrangements that elude most songwriters are all over Humbert's material. On the advance cassette, the crackly sound of an old vinyl record, lead vocals that sound as if Cintron had laid them down by phone, and a softly strummed acoustic guitar expertly set up the crashing, insistent chorus of "Everything's Okay." It's an immense, majestic piece of pop art, quite possibly one of the best songs ever born of local talent. Then there's "If It Mattered," with lead vocals on the verses by guitarist Coipel, another gorgeous tune with a great melody, rich harmonies, and a big chorus. And "Killing Lorie," with its appealing "She's an infectious girl" hook and closing layered-vocal sequencing, is yet another remarkably memorable tune.

The group mixes profoundly beautiful balladry and up-tempo rockers with equal finesse, but one of the most unforgettable tunes -- performed live only with the help of a rather melancholy recorded keyboard track (both Besares and Coipel are more-than-competent keyboardists; Coipel recorded the track) -- is perhaps their most bittersweet. On "Bring Back the Day," a haunting power ballad built around a churchy organ and a gently arpeggiated, tremolo-laden guitar, Besares and Cintron share vocal duties. The song is one of the most elegant and appealing local-band compositions any clubgoer will hear this year.

That is, if anyone shows up to see this true gem of a band at any of Miami's sadly underattended rock clubs. It's the old "If a tree falls" adage taken to its ultimate, ridiculous extreme: If talent such as this goes unnoticed, is it really all that much talent? Wake up, Miami.

"It seems like people don't really pay attention any more," comments bassist Landa. "If you go to a big show, probably like 40 percent of the people are just moshing. They're not really paying attention. They don't sit down to watch a band live."

Call it attention deficit disorder. But from the viewpoint of the members of Humbert, who won't hesitate to take their show on the road after the album release, someone, somewhere, still appreciates well-crafted songs. "If you keep writing music and melodies that are real," declares Coipel, "the bottom line is that there are still going to be people who will listen to it.

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