4 out of 5
Label: See-Thru Broadcasting
Produced by: Richard Podolor
I don’t have the disc in front of me, so I’m grabbing the credits from Allmusic, but if they’re accurately linked, producer Podolor hasn’t had much history with grungy rock like Gwen, his catalog instead populated with groups like Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf. Which is crazy, but may shed some light on why Gwenmars’ albums are generally solid slabs of enjoyable rock – perhaps they’ve had a guiding hand from someone who’s navigated through enough musical eras to know how to keep a tune. (Apologies to Podolor and the group if I’m not digging enough into their pasts for a more relevant observation.)
Because that is the overwhelming Positive on Driving a Million, even moreso than the group’s debut: get distracted by the Nirvana-ness or heavy, heavy washes of distortion, but ‘neath the gloss is a damned catchy record, pretty much from start to finish. That ‘gloss,’ which does cause this album to edge out their previous effort, might be an artifact of working via Dave Sardy’s short-lived See-Thru label, which gave all of its artists an appreciably Big Sound boost, though we’ve yet to see some of them again… Gwen, in particular, benefit from this because it syncs up perfectly with their song constructions, which are loud, and boastful, and relentlessly poppy, deserving of a sharp edge.
At the same time, this style seems like it lets some simplicity slip through for toe-tapping’s sake: ‘Strawberry Ice’ and ‘Train Song,’ for example, are a bit too obviously silly when you’re singing along. If that was the norm, it might not’ve mattered, but there’s more actual content to tracks like opener ‘Neon Tom’ and ‘She Hung the Moon’ that the comparison makes the former tracks stick out.
However, chances truly are that you’ll be enjoying yourself too much of the time to give these hiccups much notice.