Music » CD Reviews

Superdrag; James Michael

In the Valley of Dying Stars (Arena Rock); Inhale (Beyond)


Superdrag is a supergroup in waiting, a Mid-Atlantic powerhouse out of time. Driven by the lyrics and vocals of John Davis and the sharp, punishing drumming of Don Coffey Jr., the third full-length effort -- released on an indie after two fine CDs for Elektra -- by this Knoxville quartet may be its best. In tunes such as "Gimme Animosity," the creepy "Ambulance Driver," and the bracing "Lighting the Way," Davis, Coffey, guitarist Brandon Fisher, and new bassist Sam Powers effectively perpetuate that hoary genre known as power pop. Ambition is all over this CD, and so is weariness -- as the title suggests. But the lasting impression is power. From the fierce downward guitar strum of "Keep It Close to Me" to the title track, with its soulful '60s harmonies, Superdrag keeps the stakes and energy high. "Lighting the Way" and "Unprepared," respectively, mine the spirit of Cheap Trick and Love, suggesting the depth of the pop reservoir Davis and his buddies draw on so effortlessly.

James Michael is a talented songwriter with abiding affection for new wave. His impressive debut contains a smart cover of Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" and touches on the Cars ("Chemical"), Any Trouble (the prolix "Another Trip Home"), and of course, Cheap Trick (think of "I'm OK With This" as "The Flame" on Paxil). An Angeleno with midwestern roots, Michael, like Superdrag, has an affection and knack for power pop; trawl his promising debut deep enough, and you'll come up with all sorts of stylish influences from the mid-'70s to, say, 1980. His strength is his lyrics. But in the title track and the ravishing "January," Michael promises to be more than a flash in the pan.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.