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Advertisement: Chaotic rock anthems with Stones-sized swagger
The Seattle band’s full-length debut is impossible to describe – and that’s exactly how they like it
“Opening for the Oasis reunion tour, that would be nice.”
Guitarist Ryan Mangione flashes a mischievous grin and singer/guitarist Charlie Hoffman scarcely misses a beat: “We’d settle for the Rolling Stones.”
NME has just inquired about their aspirations for their band, Advertisement. They’re joking, of course. We think. Including guitarist Carl Marck, exactly three members of the rising six-piece have convened on this wooded back porch outside of Seattle to chat about their new album ‘American Advertisement’ – with nary a reliable narrator among them.
They’d much rather let their music do the talking. And on that front, Advertisement have proved, if not reliable, certainly quite capable. Helmed by enigmatic local shaman Captain Tripps, their debut EP traffics in the kind of raging, big-muffed SST squalls that elevated Milk Music and Gun Outfit to kings of the Olympian underground. While their just-released full-length, ‘American Advertisement‘, eschews the gale force of the EP for the most part, the band flaunts a broader, more expansive musical palate, befitting a group that thanks both Yoko and Shaun Ryder in the liner notes. “Honestly, the worst place we could be is if we could adequately describe to someone what our band sounds like,” says Hoffman.
Advertisement are in no danger of pigeonholing themselves any time soon. Their album veers wildly from the hazy, druggy jamming of opener ‘Freedom’ to Stones-y, ‘Beggars Banquet’-era swagger of ‘Days of Heaven’ to the Chilton-esque, barroom power-pop of “She Was Dead.” Throughout, there’s a deep reverence for and obsession with rhythm that attests to Hoffman’s childhood spent listening to Funkadelic and James Brown.
Given the speed of their evolution to date, there’s a good chance ‘American Advertisement’ is nothing more than a snapshot, which excites Hoffman. “I was never interested in starting a certain kind of band. There is an element of chaos to [Advertisement], which I think is really important. Even the songs on this record – they’ve changed quite a bit from when we originally recorded them.”
Much of this chaos is rooted in trust developed gradually over time. The band’s beginnings can actually be traced to early punk shows nearly a decade ago on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle. This is where Hoffman and Marck grew up and where, as high schoolers, they met Mangione and drummer TJ Main at a garage show – keyboardist Jesse Rosenthal and bassist Matt Kohlede round out the full band lineup.
Prior to officially forming Advertisement, they all enjoyed stints in punk bands of some acclaim in and around Seattle, including Nasti and Vacant Life. Which might explain how for their very first show as Advertisement they were able to land a slot opening for Philly sleaze-punk merchants Sheer Mag. According to Hoffman, they had “maybe two and a half original songs at that point, so we threw in a cover of The Nerves’ ‘Hanging on the Telephone.’ We butchered it so horribly I doubt anyone recognised it.”
Although Advertisement was not conceived as a punk band proper, the vestiges of their shared history are readily apparent with a quick scan of the lyrics to songs like ‘Pretty Money’ and ‘Tall Cats’, which offer sardonic, if somewhat conflicted, critiques of America circa 2020. “I think it’s fair to say we all have some pretty fundamental issues with capitalism in the US, our prison system, etc.,” says Magione. He adds: “A lot of this record is us trying to make sense of the contradictions. We see American culture as compelling and powerful, but we have an obvious distaste the dark history it came out of.”
Advertisement offer no easy answers on record; however, recognising their own privilege as six white men making rock n’ roll, a musical genre forged by Black artists and Black culture, the band made the decision to donate 100% of the proceeds from the album to the Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network. Magione doesn’t mince words on this point: “It’s far beyond time for everyone to admit that the genius and worthwhile aspects of rock are due to black musicians.” And Hoffman is quick to add: “This felt like a way for us to spread important information and give money to a cause we care about. The last thing we want to be doing is sucking up energy and time, not now.”
Advertisement are normally tough to read but their passion on this topic is unmistakable –and refreshing in light the inexplicable mess unfolding in their home country. A mess now greatly exacerbated by the record-breaking rise in COVID-19 cases that may well keep them from touring this album within their own country and bar them from these shores for the foreseeable future. The band is trying to take it all in stride and to use the down time write the follow-up, which they claim is already over half complete.
Shame those Oasis and Stones gigs will have to wait.