In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the entry for planet Earth reads “Mostly harmless.” In some respects, that’s the operative phrase for the latest from NRBQ, if perhaps without so much dismissiveness. The tunes are nearly all upbeat, their lyrical content light and their musical content often bubbly, playful and predictable.
This incarnation of the band is not the one longtime listeners are most familiar with, but Terry Adams’ reconfiguration of his Terry Adams Rock and Roll Quartet, including Adams plus Scott Ligon, Conrad Choucroun, and Casey McDonough.
The titles alone reveal the kind of ride you’re in for, with entries like “Waitin’ on my Sweetie Pie,” “This Flat Tire,” and “Can’t Wait to Kiss You.” Perhaps the most revealing track of all is a cover of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Getting to Know You,” delivered without a side of irony and with few surprises. Most of the album lines up perfectly with that tune’s vibe; if you like your pop breezy and your sentiments lighthearted, you’re likely to be a fan of Brass Tacks.
The standout tracks—by miles—are the two that arrive with a whiff of jazz about them, “Places Far Away” and “Love This Love We Got.” The Adams-penned “Places Far Away” aims for a very different mood, one tinged with the happy thanks to his light vocal delivery, but with an undeniably cool and bluesy piano part at its heart. It’s a great mix of pop and jazz, and the album’s clear keeper.
“Love This Love We Got,” a collaboratively penned tune, gets almost churchy in its piano-driven contours, a setting celebratory enough to sustain the relentlessly happy lyrics.