Brett Milano Friday, July 28, 2017
“Every review compared me to them, and I wasn’t even a fan,” he said. “Then I tracked down that CD of their first two albums, and I fell madly in love.”
But the Rationales are a lot tougher to pin down nowadays. Their new CD, “Upstream,” still has its share of pure pop, but the songs are generally longer and the arrangements more surprising — with traces of prog rock, epic Americana and even some arena-rock grandeur. What hasn’t changed is the quality of Mirabella’s writing — he can swing a hook and coin a thoughtful phrase with the best.
The Rationales (Mirabella, his brother Mike on drums, guitarist Chad Raleigh, steel guitarist Adam J. Hand, keyboardist Dave Lieb and bassist Sean Black) celebrate their album release downstairs at the Middle East Thursday. Joining them will be a handpicked roster of inventive pop/rock outfits: OldJack, the Curtis Mayflower, Red Red Rockit and the debut of Unreliable Narrators, featuring ex-Scamper guitarist Nate Rogers.
Mirabella credits the band’s evolution to having a consistent lineup and his willingness to cut the band members in on the writing and arrangements.
“The new album is probably our most collaborative. Our guitarist comes from a Southern rock, jam band sort of background. We didn’t used to have too much room for that, but he’s so good at stretched-out jamming that it would be a shame to leave that out.”
Adding a pedal steel player also tilted the band toward Americana.
“That wasn’t even intentional — Adam was originally a drummer, but he learned to play steel to play along to one of our albums. So we said, ‘Since you know our songs, you should come along to practice.’ And he never left.
“It’s hard to pigeonhole us to any one thing now. We just put it under rock ’n’ roll and hope that covers everything.”
The new album’s best track is actually its furthest stretch from straight pop: “Dulcinea” is a moody, six-minute track with a floating Pink Floyd feel.
“That song’s based on the fact that I moved all over the country for years after college and wound up living a couple of miles from where I grew up. So I thought, ‘Let’s embrace that nostalgia with all the regret and sadness that implies, and write from the perspective of someone really wallowing in that.’
“A lot of my songs come from just finding a melody and chasing it down,” he said. “It’s like the Keith Richards adage of pulling songs out of the air. I get a lot of mine that way.”
The Rationales CD release show, with OldJack, the Curtis Mayflower, Red Red Rockit and Unreliable Narrators, at Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge, Thursday. Tickets: $10; ticketweb.com.