Sunday, January 14, 2007

Review: The Handful - Second Hand Smoke (2006)

The Handful [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
Second Hand Smoke

Hailing from New Jersey, The Handful  is the duo of singer-guitarist Mark Duda and jack-of-all-instruments Jason Mischel. Dripping with influences from bands such as Deep Purple, Bad Company, and Molly Hatchet, their sophomore album Second Hand Smoke snuggles in nicely with the works of those aforementioned bands.

The bands blue collar sound is enhanced by a strong vocal performance from Mark, who sounds like a cross between Ian Gillen (Deep Purple), Danny Joe Brown (Molly Hatchet), and at times even Neil Young. Mark's voice is the primary reason the music of The Handful is so familiar and accessible, though his guitar sound is a huge factor as well. That full, deep, slightly Southern style so prevalent in the late '70s and early '80s (and continued on through to today by those classic bands) is in full force on Second Hand Smoke. While fans who can't get enough of this style will hungrily devour each track on the album, the fact remains that the strong point of this release is its familiarity - which results in "fresh" and "innovative" being words that cannot be used to describe it.

Consistency runs through all 14 tracks, but unfortunately this makes it hard for any one track to stand above the others. "Come Out and Play" comes the closest to being considered on its own merits, as it is quite possibly the "anthem" of the album. Mark's riffs and leads have plenty of high octane behind them, while the bass lines from Jason are sufficiently prominent and elaborate. Definitely a classic-in-the-making Southern rock track, it is the right choice to lead off Second Hand Smoke. Another track I found to be an above-average listen is the instrumental "Sasquatch". A Native American melody is enhanced by Mark's skillful fretwork and some meaty keys and intricate bass from Jason. "Golddigger" also contains some nice, melodic leads that stick in my mind. While the tempo on the album never reaches a thundering pace, the band does slow it down for "Disbelievin'" and "Unreal". While the former is somewhat of a power ballad (here Mark could pass for Neil Young if you didn't know better), "Unreal" is a ballad in the true sense of the word.

Second Hand Smoke is a good album of classic hard rock, but it achieves little more than that. Fans will certainly enjoy this album, while those looking for something a little more creative and novel will have to look elsewhere.

Track Listing
1 Come Out and Play 2:29
2 Drowning 2:43
3 Blood Red 4:01
4 Sasquatch 3:03
5 Golddigger 2:44
6 Feet to the Flame 3:04
7 Disbelievin' 4:06
8 Cut n' Run 2:16
9 Cold Winter 3:15
10 I Ain't Seen the Light 3:00
11 Unreal 4:38
12 Three Sheets 3:42
13 Sweet Yesterday 2:18
14 Dead To Me 3:09
Total Runtime 44:28

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