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Screen Shot 2020-02-27 at 11.46.28 AMOnce upon a time jangle guitar player/singer/songwriter Dave Kuchler joined an already established New Jersey band to help deliver one of the most criminally overlooked poprock masterpieces of the early 1990s, the Soul Engines’ Closer Still. It’s Kuchler singing lead on that janglicious, hook-infested “It’s Just Another Day.” And then … nothing. A follow up got underway but sputtered out amid record company chaos and line up changes. Well, I’m excited to report that Dave Kuchler is back with a new solo album, It’s Pronounced …, and it’s definitely been worth the wait. Kuchler’s put together a collection of tracks that exudes a distinctive New Jersey rock and roll synthesis (think heavy doses of Hammond B3 and saxophone) with a particular accent on melody. Just check out the medley of influences on the album’s stellar opening cut “If I Saw You” with its Springteen-esque roll out that trades melody lines between electric guitar and sax, with hints of Byrdsian jangle hovering in the background. It’s an auspicious start that doesn’t let up over the album’s twelve tunes.

It’s Pronounced … brings together old and new, with six tracks representing recovered older material (some from the early 1990s, others from aborted Soul Engines sessions circa 2002), while others are newly recorded songs, supported by longtime Joe Jackson bass player Graham Maby and regular Kuchler collaborator/producer/instrumentalist Pinky Giglio. Beyond elements of what some might call a ‘Jersey shore’ heartland rock, the record covers a broad range of styles, from the neo-Mersey vibe of “Better Things to Do” to the Elvis-style rockabilly vocals on “Pull My String” to the Jackson 5-influenced “Go!” Who would have thought the world needed another cover of “When You Walk in the Room” but Kuchler aces it, adding muscle to the tune amid killer organ flourishes and spot on sibilant guitar work. But the highlights of this record for me are the double-barreled should-be hit singles, “Really Lasts” and “Slave to Katy.” The former cooks with an unrelenting Motown meets Stax-Volt pop soul dance groove, ornamented with an ear-wormy bells/keyboard effect that Bruno Mars used to good effect on “Marry You.” Originally recorded with the Soul Engines for the follow up to Closer Still, the cut sounds just as fresh and contemporary as ever. Meanwhile “Slave to Katy” illustrates how Giglio’s Hammond B3 organ work is the not-so-hidden star of this album (as well the sonic glue linking old and new material).

Kuchler’s It’s Pronounced … has the sound of a timeless classic, a paean to poprock songcraft and performance. It deserves a wide hearing. Find out more about on Kuchler’s Facebook page and get over to bandcamp to get your copy.