There are so many hours between nightfall and dawn — so, so many hours.
Cops and EMTs see these hours, but I can’t imagine they’re any fun for them. The same is likely true for ER doctors, 911 dispatchers, firefighters, long-haul truck drivers; the night is long, tedious, dangerous. You work it because you have to, but being in bed would be far preferable.
Yet for the gigging musician the night is special, a pseudo-magical time during which some of the rules of reality are suspended. Especially for scrappy acts on DIY tours, each night is a new chapter in an epic odyssey of half-empty dive bars and jury-rigged show spaces. You drive long hours through the night, you sleep on threadbare couches or the floor of your van, your life makes more sense when the moon is out than the sun.
Matt Lorenz, the one-person-band who records and tours as The Suitcase Junket, gets it. And from jangly folk-pop numbers about his unconditional love of the night to riff-driven roots-rock cuts chronicling the simple act of driving into New York City, his new Mean Dog, Trampoline is music for and about quasi-nomadic nocturnal animals such as himself.
“Lonely days and crowded nights / I am right when I’m not wrong / hell is a dreamless life,” Lorenz sings over fingerstyle guitar and tasteful string swells on “Dreamless Life.” Like many cuts on Mean Dog, Trampoline, it’s a bright and optimistic tune, but philosophically honest.
Indeed, a sense of good-humored weightlessness pervades cuts like “Dreamless Life,” “Everything I Like,” and “Dandelion Crown.” And while studio musicians’ contributions add sonic depth to The Suitcase Junket, Lorenz’s arrangements reflect a welcome understanding of pop music structures. The romantic uplift of “Dandelion Crown,” for instance, is structural to the song.
The Suitcase Junket is also at home pushing ramshackle blues-rock bruisers. “Heart of a Dog” crawls with delicious, doom-laden menace, while “Stay Too Long” is pure crunchy swagger and groove. On both numbers (and a couple other spots on the record), Lorenz’s howl evokes that of the late Chris Cornell.
Blues-rock crunch and ramshackle, yet pop-educated anti-folk provide a solid anchor for the enthusiasm that drives the dozen tunes of Mean Dog, Trampoline. This is the energy of someone old enough to have found his niche, yet still young enough to not need all that much sleep — and thrilled shitless to drive through the night, every night, toward the next weird little venue.