The concept of a not-for-profit band isn’t necessarily a new one, as most bands fail to make any significant amount of money from their efforts, laudable or not. Former Columbia, SC resident Angelo Gianni, who has called Asheville, North Carolina home for many years now, has given this method a new internet-age twist, however, with his band Treadmill Trackstar and their newly released album Goodbye to Analog, the third to be issued via fan funding and sales that are plowed directly back into the next album with nobody from the band actually getting paid from the proceeds–the fourth is already underway, actually, even as this one comes out.
All that wouldn’t really matter much if the music wasn’t great, which it is. Gianni and company flirted with the mainstream back in the late 1990s (their 1997 album Only This came out on the Hootie & the Blowfish-curated label Breaking Records), but the last few sets of songs are stronger and more mature than even that commercial ‘high point’.
Eschewing the quieter acoustics of the previous album Leaving Ohio, Gianni brings back the snarling electrics again from the get-go, with “Life Is A Fatal Disease” blasting out of the speakers like a lost Smashing Pumpkins anthem. Its fatalistic lyrical outlook is typical of Gianni’s long-term worldview, which is resigned to everything sucking, pretty much. The difference as he has aged into things like marriage and parenthood is that there are silver linings and positives to be taken from even the everyday crap of life.
“Dying In Style” begins in fine despairing fashion, but the hope for satisfaction is palpable in lines such as, “you know dreams almost never pay, so you know I feast on the kids to live.” Maybe it’s a commentary on our youth-centric culture, or perhaps it’s acknowledgement that his children are giving him a reason to keep on keeping on.
The guitars abate occasionally for quieter numbers, such as “Rewrite Genesis,” which with its cello intro and gently loping drum machine beat sounds suspiciously like a Contemporary Christian tune except for the lyrics:
I don’t need God anymore, she gives me communion, gives me body and blood,
I don’t need God any more, we’ll make our own sun and moon and stars
I don’t need God any more I found something I can touch to believe in
I don’t need God at all, when I pray to her she hears me.
Gianni has never been violently anti-religion, but he’s clear on where he stands on spirituality, which he takes from his personal relationships. He’s still searching, however, something made plain on a song such as “Looking For Light,” which aches for some sense of home among the thorns of life:
“That town I left forever, this one is turning into the same, oh why do we try so hard to run past the length of the chain”
It’s a frustrated search, one that has kept Gianni’s creative muse at work for years with no real expectation of ‘success’ in worldly terms. His efforts with Treadmill Trackstar may not be for monetary profit, but one could argue that he’s more than getting his money’s worth for the therapeutic effect of releasing all this angst and agony in exquisite musical form.
Side note: longtime Treadmill fans will want to notice that cellist Katie Hamilton returns to the group for the first time since that 1997 album; Heidi Carey and drummer Tony Lee both sat out these sessions.
Check out the entire album on Bandcamp below, where it’s available as a Name Your Price download: