HGR CD Review: MFG

MFG – DON’T KILL THE MOMENT (Frontbros Records) MFG is an acronym monicker for a new studio collaboration featuring three well-known central PA music scene names. The ‘M’ and ‘G,’ guitarist/singer John McKelvey and singer/guitarist/keyboardist Bobby Gates, have worked together for more than three decades as part of Altoona band institution The Front, while John and the ‘F,’ drummer Skip Fisher, have collaborated more recently in the band Issues. The trio’s first MFG album, Don’t Kill the Moment, offers a blend of rock and pop styles over its eleven tracks, allowing the musicians to flex their creativity and musicianship over some uncharted terrain. Brit-pop styles inform a lot of the album, including the disc opener “Lauren,” an ode to Gates’ daughter that first surfaced as a Front original during the early 1990s. Also showing some British pop influence are the upbeat “By My Side” and “To Love Again,” the darker-toned “Time and Tide” and the boisterous “Neverland.” The title track, “Don’t Kill the Moment,” offers a bright encouragement to make love last, while guest keyboardist Phil Steele’s arrangement escalates the lightly-funky “Party Time” into a dance floor rocker. “Klepto” steams with punk rocking vinegar, while the reflective “Fire Tower Road” hints at Springsteen-esque storytelling. Buoyed by McKelvey’s chunky riffs and Fisher’s beats, “Good Against Me” channels metal-toned aggression, while “You’re Not In My Arms” ends the disc on an angrier, distrustful note. The songs largely work, with simple choruses that hang around in the cranium after several listens, plus relatable and easy-to-digest lyrics. The performances are solid throughout the disc, as all three musicians know their turf and fulfill their respective roles well. The presentation is relaxed and even playful at times, with Gates’ voice seizing the moment and riding each song’s mood. Besides the aforementioned Phil Steele’s cameo on keys, guest Rogan Allen contributes guitar and bass on two respective tracks. Produced by MFG and Rick Claar, Don’t Kill the Moment sounds clean and cavernous, with each song sounding broad and deep. Fisher’s drums could sound stronger in a few spots, but overall this is a solid, cohesive set. After establishing themselves through their well-known previous band institutions, McKelvey, Fisher and Gates turn a new page with MFG, and Don’t Kill the Moment charts a new, fresh and listenable course. (The CD can be obtained through the website www.mfgband.com.)