The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Band’s appeal expands outside Chicago rock scene

Observer Scene | Thursday, February 2, 2006

More than just an adage of encouraging soccer parents, sometimes it really doesn’t matter who wins – it just matters how hard you play.

Last summer, CBS launched Rockstar, a hit reality show in which several performers competed to become the lead singer of the rock band INXS. As the runner-up, Marty Casey may not have been chosen to revive the largely forgotten band’s career, but he hopes to use his 15 minutes of fame to catapult the band he has been with for more than 15 years.

The Lovehammers have long been a staple of the Chicago rock scene, winning over throngs of loyal fans who refer to themselves as “Hammerheads.” Having met in junior high, Marty Casey (vocals), Bob Kourelis (drums), Billy Sawilchik (guitar) and Dino Kourelis (bass) have remained passionately dedicated to their band despite being unable to land a recording contract.

This self-titled album is the band’s first release on a record label, but it features an assortment of tracks from previously self-released albums. Although the album lacks a focused whole, it provides a diverse picture of where the band has been and where it hopes to be.

The album opens with “Casualty,” pounding out a rousing refusal to answer to failure.

Although there are exceptions, most of the subsequent songs tend to sound the same. But The Lovehammers fend off boredom by tirelessly knocking out their songs with full force. Casey’s forceful modulations create an emotional stronghold of otherwise unremarkable songs.

The album’s first single, “Trees,” had been performed by Casey on “Rockstar,” and it is now one of the top songs downloaded on the Internet. The song juxtaposes lyrics detailing dreams of an innocent romance – “It will be you and me/ Up in the trees/ And the forest will give us the answers” – with an infectious melody.

Things slow down a bit with “Rain on the Brain,” a song which earned Casey a spot as a finalist in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Other standout tracks include “The Tunnel,” which sounds like a grunged-out Cure song, “Call of Distress” and the satisfying final ballad “Clouds.”

Marty Casey may have won over audiences on CBS, but this album fails to differentiate the band from all the Nickelbacks and the Puddles of Mud already on the radio.

Casey’s long run on Rockstar, as well as the local success of the band, is largely due to the Lovehammers’ ability to put on a great live show – something that unfortunately does not translate to the new album.

Marty Casey and the Lovehammers are currently opening for INXS on the sold-out “Switched On” tour.