Reviews of Money Isn't Everything
The Trouble With Normal
"...The latest from The Hi Frequencies is full of rock'n'roll songs with a distinctly early 60s flavor, combining instrumentals with vocal songs all built on clean guitar and hooks that wouldn't be out of place on an oldies station. The vibe of this band won't be everybody's 40 oz of malt liquor but the Hi Frequencies passion for early rock n' roll and their ability to create hooks with relative ease make them a breath of fresh sea air given how homogenized a lot of music tends to be these days. If you're into late 50s/early 60s rock songs and ever wondered if any bands sound like that now, check these guys out."
-Boone Stigall, June 2007 (Issue #83)
"This is a cool frat/surf band based in Pittsburgh, PA that is similar to The Saturn V Featuring Orbit or the Orang-U-Tones. However, this combo does more instros (it's an even 50/50 split here) and the singer sounds like a teenaged Tom Jones (in my book a good thing!). Musically this band's got it all goin' on, but the overall sound was a little light - I would have liked a little more muscle in the tunes. Live, I bet this combo really gets a room movin' though. [Four Stars]"
- Sean Berry, Fall 2006 (Issue #13)
Rock N Roll Purgatory
"This is excellent traveling music. I listened to this while driving through Western Texas towards El Paso on a sunny day, and it was perfect. It is kind of like what would happen if Chuck Berry and CCR did a garagy R&B/surf album together. The guitarist has a great, fluid style and half the songs are really good 60's sounding instrumentals that are perfectly put together to not be too sparse, yet not too brash either. A great sense of pacing gives the songs an atmosphere and depth without getting too drawn out. The singer is pretty skilled as well, and the only song I didn't care for was last track."
- Ben, Summer 2006
"If the Cavern Club had been in Motown . . . early sixties rockin' from Pittsburgh, by men in narrow suits and a gal in a nice off-the-shoulder number, made all the better by the obscenely soulful singing of Jayson Brooks (he's black, so it sounds good on him). And also having thrown some dreamy surf instros into the mix, the HFs elicit that too-rare put your feet up and consider your life well-lived feeling."
- Nathan Marsak, Spring 2006 (Issue #22)
"''Talkin About You' is such a familiar and oft-covered song that it is a strange choice as an opener, but the album soon picks up. The Hi-Frequencies mix late '50s/early '60s style instros and original tunes with an affectionate but not over-obsessive nod to the pop, soul and rock of the early '60s. The instros are all highly danceable and not over-complicated. Mixing the vocal and instrumental numbers up makes for a well-sequenced album, as some talented instro bands struggle to sustain interest over a whole CD. Live, I guess the band do separate vocal and instrumental sets. (?) The vocals of Jayson Brooks are a major plus, as they add a soulful R&B flavour to the tunes. The original vocal tunes are fun without being instant classics. Nevertheless this is a highly listenable album."
- Phil Suggitt, March 2006
"Brian Wilson would certainly SMILE upon hearing the 60s-style surf songs created and covered by the Hi-Frequencies on their sophomore album Money Isn't Everything. Lead singer Jayson Brooks begins the record by belting Chuck Berry's 'I'm Talking about You.' After that, nearly half of the songs on the CD are instrumental. Although they have a different sound, the five H-F musicians from Pittsburgh have found their niche. In recent years, the group has even opened up for mainstream acts like the White Stripes and Guided by Voices. "
- Deirdre Walsh, March 2006
"...a contagious surf-rock revival that actually brings to mind the unmistakable style of Dick Dale, The Tornadoes, and the many other kings of 60's California rock. On this their sophomore effort, we are introduced to Jayson Brooks' soulful vocals on the Chuck Berry tune 'I'm Talking About You,' 'Everybody,' and the title track. With half of the album sans vocals, each song is framed around the clean and simple electric guitars, creating a fresh, open sound. Highlights include '225' - an original reminiscent of the Centurians' 'Bullwinkle Part II,' 'Miss Bonita' and 'Red River,' a dusty instrumental with a Clint Eastwood spaghetti Western feel... "
- February 2006 (Issue #10)
"Money Isn't Everything is an almost note-perfect throwback to the early 1960s, a time when performers wore suits and ties without irony. The group has that slightly fuzzy '60s edge to their drums, and their guitars twang with the lovely, resonant sound of surfer rock. Jayson Brooks' voice goes deep and precise in all the right places and in their cover of Fats Domino's 'Hello Josephine' he even manages a citron falsetto. Occasionally the '60s mood slips, very slightly, and something more modern creeps in -- 'California Ave' doesn't quite nail it, but the next song, 'Peacock Stomp,' makes up for that with rolling drums and a sharp guitar. It's self-produced as well: members of the band run both the Teen Regime label and the studio where the album was recorded. (See the Teen Regime website for an explanation of guitarist Bill McAdams' pro-analog philosophy.) If The Hi-Frequencies have a fault then it's the politeness of their sound. Money Isn't Everything could use some aggression a la Dick Dale or Jerry Lee Lewis. Still, it's an independent label and a great little album. What's not to like? - [7/10]"
- Deanne Sole, February 2006
"...With [Jayson] Brooks on vocals, there's a noticeable shift in the way the Hi-Frequencies sound on this latest release. But the music is still rooted in the sound and spirit of the 1960s, from the opening charge of their spirited cover of Chuck Berry's 'I'm Talking About You,' through 'Money Isn't Everything' (a sassy Memphis R&B revival written by guitarist Jason Lizzi), to the understated final cut, Brooks' wistful breakup ballad, 'Cleaning House.' ...[Brooks] takes the Hi-Frequencies from what had always been a fun night out for surf geeks and '60s revivalists to a point where they could effortlessly hold their own against the best the roots revival has to offer."
- Ed Masley, December 2005
"To call The Hi-Frequencies 'retro' would be a gross oversimplification. 'Revivalists' sounds a little square, and 'oldies' -- well, now you're getting close to fighting words. Call them 'resurrectors,' maybe. They play original songs (and some covers) with the raw energy and handcrafted care that made so many recordings from the late '50s to the mid-'60s sound so good... Drilling through mountains of rock history, The Hi-Frequencies mine rare veins of Link Wray, Dick Dale, early Byrds and a thousand unjustly forgotten garage bands. But their best discovery was when singer Jayson Brooks joined the band -- a soulful R&B shouter who can carry Chuck Berry or Otis Redding tunes convincingly."
- Michael Machosky, December 2005
Pittsburgh City Paper
"'Hey, money isn't everything!' bellows vocalist Jayson Brooks, a quarter of the way through the Hi-Frequencies' latest long-player. 'It's the only thing!' Pull the band's CD out of its plastic jewel case, and the currency fetish theme repeats itself once again: Hidden beneath the disc is a tiny line drawing of a pile of golden coins, radiating light. So you'll be forgiven for assuming that the Hi-Frequencies are simply another money-grubbing rock 'n' roll band, clawing furiously for a piece of the million-dollar industry pie. However! As one of Pittsburgh's premiere old-style surf rock and R&B bands, that couldn't possibly be further from the truth. Throughout Money Isn't Everything, the supremely soulful quintet manages to radiate the sort of class and style that most other retro surf-rock groups can only brag of, and often untruthfully. Which isn't to say that Money is a particularly complicated album. On the contrary, fans of revivalist surf rock such as The Phantom Surfers or Huevos Rancheros will find mostly familiar material here. It's the fairly recent addition of soul-singer Brooks, though, that lends the Hi-Frequencies its slightly more exotic and flavorful edge -- that and the perfectly clean guitar lines on instrumental tracks such as 'California Ave.' and 'Sloppy Joe Pt. II.' In other words, here's a rock revivalist act that actually does deserves its own pile of gold -- and what's more, the players are based right here, in our own backyard. Enjoy."
- Dan Eldridge, December 2005
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