Cody Melville: What’s In A Name

When your name is as archetypically American as Cody Melville, one thing is perfectly clear: you better come up with the goods. Don’t be mistaken, Melville does not affect anything overly American, rootsy or folky. But with that name he has implied some pretty big promises. And on his new album, Bonds Eye, he fulfills them. Having ingested influences like Lou Reed and David Bowie, but fully digested them, this glammy New Yorker has made a remarkable album. It’s familiar and yet somehow new. It’s really quite something.

“I have to admit that my roots are in early ‘70s music,” says the affable Melville. “Bowie, Lou Reed, Mott The Hoople. But I think I’ve got my own sound now. Still, that sort of mix of rock and artifice those guys applied to the music, as opposed to the sincerity of the ‘60s, is where I feel most comfortable.”

Listen to Bonds Eye and you’ll hear that Melville has really hit his comfort zone. Smack in the middle.

The album is a cornucopia of hard rocking and melodic delights. It smacks you right off with the meaty, sizzling riff of “I Don’t Want To Go.” With a catchy-as-herpes chorus (that contains just a soupçon of “Sweet Jane”), it would make a great single. You know, if they still put them out. The cool thing is, for all his ‘70s allure and amour, Melville’s got his own thing going. More personal and revealing than something by Bowie, much better sung than Reed, it’s a Power Pop song of desperate love, with the perfect sheen of Top Forty radio. Then there’s “Rock N Roll Prayer.” Starting with a fuzzy, psychedelic guitar hook, Melville croons the title of the tune, which is hooky as hell once you hear it. Then there’s the hard rocking’ “Damaged Goods.” Overstuffed with power chords, it sports another catchy guitar hook and a lyric about how broken to pieces we all feel as we grow older. If you like lyrical, noisy, articulate rock and roll, you could almost weep listening to Bonds Eye. Simply for the fact that you thought you’d never hear anything like it again.

Melville, modest man that he is, distributes the credits for this superb new disc equally to his players, surroundings and studio, instead of taking the lion’s share himself.

“I was tired of dealing with Manhattan and Brooklyn prices and hassles,” he says, “so I bought a house in upstate NewYork, big with lots of rooms, for a very reasonable price. I built a studio there and had some great players come and help me on the record. That’s one reason I was able to write and record so many songs. I wasn’t consumed with money worries about being in the studio or the problems that come with living in the city.”

Melville is being humble when he talks about writing “so many songs.” In fact, when he was ready to record in his studio, he had 35 to choose from. If there’s an interesting irony here, it’s that the singer-songwriter made such an urban-sounding, Glam album in a big house in the country. I mean, The Band made some incredible music up here too, but rustic and rural, in keeping with the mountains and the pine trees.

As with 2015’s Fireworks on 14th Street, Melville plays most of the instruments on the new record. Which can happen when you have your own studio and you’re not on the clock when overdubbing. It also helps, of course, to know all those instruments. The things he didn’t play were done by a team of very hip and talented session men, most of whom you’ve heard without actually knowing.

“I was really lucky to get Steve Holley to play drums on a couple of tracks. He’s probably best known for drumming for Paul McCartney and Ian Hunter. I got Keith Lentin to pitch in on acoustic guitar and bass. Keith use to play with (legendary noise guitarist) Link Wray. I also feel particularly fortunate to have gotten one of my favorite girl singers on my song ‘Remember Ah Remember.” Her name is Dina Regine and in addition to being a great photographer, she is a staple on Manhattan music scene. I’ve loved her voice forever, and when I heard her on Little Steven’s Underground Garage, I knew I had to get her to sing with me. To my great good fortune, she did.”

Then Melville sighs and says, “Now the real work begins. I have to go out and promote this thing.” Which is followed by a half-serious chuckle. I think it’s because Cody Melville knows what he’s accomplished with Bonds Eye. And when you know you’ve made such a fine, eclectic, timeless rock album, the difficulty is really over. And to anyone who can craft and polish a gem this fine really has done the hard part. Going out and selling it? That should be child’s play.