In my 20 years as an editor, I've never encountered the level of fanatical hysteria that I've seen in followers of Charlotte's Rory Lewis. Mention him with the slightest bit of negativity (or even just silly humor) and his fans go positively rabid, foaming at their mouths and spewing vile, mean-spirited profanity. Don't mention Rory at all, and they cry conspiracy. (Just go to the QC Secret Society feature and browse the comments posted below the reviews.)
My first instinct is to ignore an artist whose music attracts such dismal human waste. But I couldn't ignore Lewis. With little media coverage, the man's managed to sell a gazillion albums via the Internet. He boasts (too often, I might add) of being the most downloaded unsigned band in the US. But his numbers look right, and he was even listed as a top seller in Rolling Stone. I went to Lewis' spot on www.Myspace.com to see what all the fuss was about.
The first track I listened to -- a spare, Zappa-tinged garage rocker called "Hippie Paradise," from the Rory Lewis Band's latest album, Songs for Friday (Innertron Records; ***1/2) -- hooked me. The melody and lyrical saga -- about a jam-band festival featuring "bare-breasted hippie girls" -- was addictive, and I found myself singing it for days.
In fact, the entire disc is packed with similarly hummable tunes, some couched in garage rock, others more psychedelic in tone and still others riding driving '70s-style punk or '90s-style grunge riffs. But there's nothing overtly copycat-ish about Songs for Friday. Each track is pure Rory Lewis, whatever inspirational brush strokes the band uses. It's as if this numbers freak -- by day Lewis is a computational mathematician at UNCC -- has punched in all the parameters that make up the perfect rock melody and come up with some monster variations.
The only bummer of this bunch is a pretentious spoken word piece called "The Reluctant Republican." The song goes a long way in explaining Lewis' guru-like following; his Web site is filled with overly self-important philosophical ramblings. But this is a minor issue. Songs for Friday is a keeper.