Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 8.5/10
The Allegheny may be the most famous river that runs through the American heartland city of Pittsburgh, it may the one in which Samuel Diescher’s famous Duquesne Incline takes in the breathtaking scenery and the view of the once famous Three River Stadium, yet like so much else in this town built on coal, ore and iron, beneath the surface there is a vibrancy unnoticed, the visitor, like the three rivers, may pass through it, but rarely do they get to see the beauty or the past that hides in plain sight, that is built not just on the imposing Allegheny or the Ohio but on the might of the Monongahela as well.
For Pittsburgh band Steelesque, nothing ever goes unnoticed, the lyrical value of the group having been stretched further as the time has gone on and whilst The Three Rivers Stadium echoes in its permanent demise and the memories of the Steelers in their prime, such fading grandeur is only enhanced by the resolution of placing down in memory songs that capture the moment and the pleasure of a city that is in many ways equal to those around it.
Toro Toro is the latest release by this fantastic Pittsburgh band, a group that regretfully still has not had the pleasure of being heard in vast numbers by music lovers in the U.K. and yet has all the attributes and sense of inner blue collar love as The E. Street band or any number of groups that formed in the state triangle of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The steaming beast that rampages through the album is the antipathies of the statue that stands in the shadows of stocks and shares in New York, this is the fight of the bull in an entirely different situation, one that rages but with elegant verse, in a city that even back in the 1990s was felt to be a separate entity to its state brother of Philadelphia; this was a city that brought low and like Allentown became a ghost as other flagship towns prospered.
Toro Toro sees Robby Eldridge on vocals at his personal best and framing the fight of the album with Eric Drake, Jerry Courtney, Sam Baldigowski, Ron Castelluci and Bruce Virtue; in songs such as Mon River, a beautifully arranged track which brings forth long since distant memories of the community that grew up alongside the Monongahela River, Keith Lights a Cigarette in which the feeling of an expansive modern Noir seems to take hold, Ferriswheel and the superb Bury Them Bones, Steelesque once again prove that underneath any city’s bright illusion there is a past that is infinitely more amazing, more incredible, than can be discerned that just by being a visitor for a day or two.
Sometimes you have to really immerse yourself in the belly of the town, you can see the world from the working incline but take a trip out to the ones that closed down and stand on the ridge of the echoes of the old tracks, for there, as Toro Toro suggests, is true and unashamed beauty.
Ian D. Hall