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CD Reviews: Molly
Molly: The Finger
September 2003
By: Matt Boltz
album cover of Molly's The Finger

While the Detroit music scene has received a lot of national and international attention the last few years for producing acts such as Kid Rock, Eminem and the White Stripes, the West Michigan music scene has been thriving in relative obscurity. West Michigan's last major national rock act was the Verve Pipe, who reached the pinnacle of their major label success back in 1997. Despite the lack of national attention, West Michigan's scene has continued to produce rock bands with loyal fan bases and strong work ethics. Molly, a rock quartet from Grand Rapids, MI, has been steadily making a mark on the local scene for the past several years, and their popularity has only increased with the 2003 release of their second full-length album (third overall), The Finger. This is Molly's first effort for a national label, having signed with Idol Records a few months before the album's release.

The Finger picks up where the EP Mollywood and the full-length Sexxx Sells left off, delivering a unique combination of pop, rock, and punk laced with originality and catchiness. The album was produced by Michigan music veteran Tim Patalan, along with Molly, and delivers ten songs in thirty-two minutes. Like Molly's previous albums, The Finger contains no excess (aside from a short answering machine message included as an unlisted track), no epics, and no filler songs; it cuts no corners and begins rocking from the first notes of Paper Trail until the final notes of The Last Song. Paper Trail is an excellent choice for an opening track with drummer Todd Long's hypnotic beat and lead guitarist Curt Hines's bend-filled opening riff and sinister verse work immediately grabbing the listener's attention. Long, known for his animated drumming when playing live, does a flawless job of holding down the rhythm throughout the album. John Kochans is an excellent bass player whose bass lines are the perfect complement for Long, Hines, and lead singer/guitarist Johnny Griffes. Griffes's vocals are slightly edgy in a style reminiscent of Jon Bon Jovi, and he manages to sound both raw and polished at the same time, while his vocals often have an edge to them, the delivery is smooth and he never sounds as if he has to work too hard to hit the notes he sings. Although Griffes handles all of the lead vocals on The Finger, all four band members have the ability to sing lead. Molly incorporates its members' vocal abilities into many well-placed backup and harmony parts throughout the album. One of the best examples is Punk Rock Girl, a tune that blends palm-muted guitars, easily remembered lyrics, and a catchy harmony part that opens the chorus. Another well-placed example of harmonies is on the aptly placed The Last Song; after a 1950s-style guitar solo, the song builds up to an ending in which each of the band members sings a different part in an impressive display of vocal timing and harmony.

The majority of The Finger features electric guitars played aggressively, and often distorted, with a definite rock and roll tone. The most notable exception is Another Day of Regrets, a slow acoustic-driven song that shows off Griffes's vocal prowess, songwriting skills, and guitar proficiency. Griffes conveys the song's wistful tone in both his vocal delivery and guitar playing. Lines such as, Sometimes I can't stand the weight of this world on my shoulders / But I don't mind and It's the only thing that I've got / These bittersweet pills / We call lives / That make us feel evoke images of someone who has been dealt a rough hand in life or wishes his or her circumstances were better, but is maintaining as hopeful of an attitude as possible. Griffes sings this song with an emotion that matches the music and lyrics perfectly and radiates pain and longing throughout. The listener barely has a chance to become mellowed by Another Day of Regrets before the beginning riff of Weary begins--- Weary could be the best driving song on the album, with its music evoking images of cruising in the summer with the windows rolled down. Weary combines many of the elements that Molly does best--- a memorable riff, lyrics that are easy to remember and sing along with, great lead and backup vocals, steady drumming, and no-nonsense bass lines. Many of Molly's songs, including Tonight You're Mine, contain musical subtleties that are not necessarily evident on a first or second listen. One testament to the experience and evolving maturity of Molly as a band is that no matter what is going on during the songs, it is never too much; each member appears to know how to maximize their contribution to the song without stepping on the toes of the other members. Other standout tracks on The Finger include the local favorite Girlfriend, on which Hines and Griffes get to show off their guitar chops and include a solo that is partially finger tapped (a la Eddie Van Halen), and Judy, one of the fastest songs on the album and one of the finest examples of Long's expert timekeeping.

If Molly wasn't already established as one of the major players in the Michigan music scene prior to releasing The Finger, they have undoubtedly become so subsequent to its release. It contains some of the finest songs the band has written and performed to date and has several songs that can be described as catchy, upbeat, and rocking. Molly's record label, Idol Records, and management team, Aural Pleasure Music, are helping the band be seen and heard by more and more people throughout the country. The Finger is a sign of great things to come for Molly and definitely worth a listen if you're into a down-to-earth band with the ability to rock with the best of them while writing some of the catchiest songs around.