On the Record | Review of The Lion’s Suite by Green Tree Novelty Tea

by Kyle Cochrun


Three cheers for kitchen sink records. The conventional, verse-chorus-verse rock song structure deserves to be shredded and tossed in the compost heap every once in awhile. Problem is, most bands can’t pull it off; the music drains of tension and wanders into tedium.

But when a band does pull it off (let’s give another three cheers for The Microphones!), the listening experience is rewarding and refreshing.

Akron’s own Green Tree Novelty Tea (which is the name of a band, not a combination herbal tea shop/ vintage clothing store) pulls it off. The band is made up of just two members, drummer Eric Vaught and guitarist Corey Haren. Their EP titled The Lion’s Suite, a diverse collection of persistently creative, colorful rock music, was surprisingly recorded live. Don’t call it “progressive rock,” a genre tag that’s good for making smug music fans feel smart and everyone else yawn and disregard the music.

MORE ON THE RECORD: This is What We Are Now

“Eric and I were both [previously] in a math rock fusion group called Mount Ratz,” says Corey, “so some of the tricks and such we learned playing in that band bled over into this project.”

Math rock is a better descriptor, but don’t expect this to be poindexter music. There are enough thrills here to treat casual listeners.

“Ode to the Young Lion Pt. 1” opens with one of the guys mimicking a lion’s growl. There’s a deluge of electric guitar, some soft singing, some screaming, delicate wails reverberating in the background and plenty of time-signature frolicking. “Pt. 2” calms down, loses the rhythmic backbone and rinses the ears with a disarray of interlacing guitar and vocal melodies before the pace picks up with “Goin’ Glam,” an aggressive, punky squall that seems to synthesize screamo and New York no-wave.

MORE ON THE RECORD: The “Big, Big EP” by The Outside Voices

“A Bird’s Song: Tones to Christian” starts as morose indie rock and ends with an explosive, bash-and-clang coda reminiscent of contemporary metal. The song’s final minute is a noise onslaught sounding something like a big-budget sci-fi film sequence of a violent U.F.O. crash.

“The Bloodletting” closes the record out with a subdued cluster of guitar harmony, like an interlude from one of Sonic Youth’s sprawling masterworks.

That’s it: a little under twenty minutes and done. But doesn’t that sound like a lot? Not one of these songs resembles a typical rock anthem — but the album’s scope, and the way each song bleeds into the next, can, by the end, deliver an anthemic impact.

Kyle Cochrun is a writer from Akron, Ohio who is currently enrolled in the NEOMFA program for creative writing.


(Album Artwork by Matt Horak)