The Payola Reserve
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The Payola Reserve


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This band has not uploaded any videos



""Same Path, Different Walk"- Redefine Magazine"

The Payola Reserve's full-length debut is entitled One Long Apology, and, although I'm unsure what they're apologizing for, they've managed to pack enough talent, creativity, and wit into a 41-minute record to make amends for whatever it might be. The album takes off with a catchy, upbeat dose of neo-folk that sounds like the result of Bob Dylan, the less political side of Billy Bragg without the British accent, and a piano getting tossed simultaneously into a blender (if you're imagining a folk star bloodbath taking place, you may have missed the point).

This start serves as a foundation upon which different styles, sounds, and influences are layered. The outcome is a diverse mix of noise that resembles too many artists to mention. Although some of their influences are apparent, many only show themselves on this album briefly. The Payola Reserve can make the transition from an epic folk progression to a short but sweet math rock solo in the blink of an eye. Their sound does not resemble a random collection of imitations, but a uniquely unified mass of music.

The Payola Reserve stands on the shoulders of giants; there's no doubt about that. What they don't do is mimic these beloved giants for the purpose of riding their leftover momentum toward undeserved success. They walk the path that has been paved by musical pioneers before them in a way that's different from how anyone else walks it. This record is not revolutionary; it won't change the way you see music. But One Long Apology sounds like it was made by music geeks, and as a monument to their love of music, it stands as something many music geeks will appreciate.

~Nathan Jeffryes (2006, Redefine Magazine). -

"The Daily Copper - "One Long Apology" Review"

And so come The Payola Reserve - that band I'd never heard of, but all I can do now is chat up how grand they are. One of the few bands that make swimming through stacks of manila-colored bubble mailers worth the bends. Calling Baltimore, MD home (their basement studio dubbed the 'Great American Slum'), The Payola Reserve crafts sounds that would be warmly welcome in a home that refers to Telephono-era Spoon as 'God' and bows at everything beautiful created with equal parts guitars, drums, and Rhodes organ.

It's not everyday you are spoken to with such charm as "your corpse will be the cutest thing since James Dean had his - accident" - and lead man Ben Pranger spooks us with this single line on "Seasick on Shore Leave" (one of many times lyrical wit ranks high - see also: "Antiquing"). Certainly one of the more impressive albums I have had the chance of placing in my player this year - I'd suggest you give The Payola Reserve some ample attention. For kids on the digital run, start with "Anything But Ghosts" & "Seasick".

~Kaleb Gay (2006, The Daily Copper)

""A Virtual History Lesson in Rock and Roll"- Any Given Tuesday"

Monday, August 06, 2007
Any Given Tuesday
Review: The Payola Reserve - 200 Years

The Payola Reserve are going to have to indulge me a bit as I waver a bit from standard record review format. I met the Payola Reserve at their practice space/studio (listen to Episode 5 of Any Given Tuesday to share in the fun) and these cats were just plain cool. I felt like I was hanging out with the rock star heroes I looked up to when I was a kid, except those heroes stayed the same age while I grew up. These guys are just the fruit of a different era (kind of how I view myself). We were all born thirty years too late.

The Payola Reserve just recorded and released (all by themselves . . . take that, hipsters. If I have to listen to one more Clap Your Hands Say Yeah reference, I'll lose it) their second album, 200 Years. This album breaks away from the New Wave-y One Long Apology and moves into the beyond cool sound of the early '70s. Again, indulging myself fully, I'm going to make a Tim Renwick reference. I have talked about this guitar demigod in the past, who has been a session player for Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, Al Stewart (Tim played on the LP Year of the Cat), and so many other powerful artists. When I hear Al (Pacheco, not Stewart) play guitar on this record, I feel like he's reproducing the tone of '70s guitar icons. On "Henrietta" I am reminded of another band Renwick worked with, Sutherland Brothers & Quiver. Renwick played with Quiver, who along with the Sutherland Brothers, recorded five albums, my personal favorite of which was Slipstream. My father's prize possession is his 8-track of this album which, to me, is beyond rad. The guitar chops on "Henrietta" are among my favorite of any record I've listened to this year. The Payola Reserve just jam it out on the track, and the rolling toms from drummer Ken Fisher texture this track, with Bryson Dudley keeping down the low end on bass. Ben Pranger's wails on the track have me squeaking out my own singalong with the air guitar, making "Henrietta" a highlight for those who pick up the record.

What I find most compelling about Payola Reserve is that their albums conceptually invoke an era. 200 Years is a record that compels references to other artists, because the album is a virtual history lesson in rock and roll. Where Apology delved into the 80s, 200 Years moves to the awesomeness of the late '60s and early '70s, digging up a lost Neil Young, circa America. Maybe even some Neil & Crazy Horse Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere material. Perhaps an indication of what's to come, but you'll detect a fleck of Delta Blues in this record, too. You know what I want to hear? Some Mississippi John Hurt. But I'll take the extra jam on "Portrait Society" until then, as well as the conjuring of Tom Petty in the vocals for "Going Army", a tongue-in-cheek shout about joining the military that begins with a military-type processional.

The lyrics on 200 Years are a treat for anyone who considers themself a poet/lyricist because these lyrics are so clever. When "Grade A Television" develops an almost meaningful relationship between a person and her TV and avoids being awkward, that displays a lyrical finesse that I love almost as much as I do the Rhodes piano (which this album employs). If you ever debate the lyricism and songwriting of the Beatles, TPR's Ben Pranger is much more Lennon than McCartney. Listen to "Money For Old Rope" and I challenge you to disagree.

The Payola Reserve, with all their ability and vision, seem to be holding back a bit and restricting themselves to an extent, whether to categorically maintain an "indie" sound or as part of a long-term vision for their plans to let their sound develop over time as they reinterpret and pay homage to sound eras of the past. The album inoffensively and deftly moves from knee-slapping bluegrass ("Jugband Joan") to harmonica-infused ballad ("200 Years") and country twang ("Lost Wind Craze"). The Payola Reserve has a lot of potential for experimenting with their unique influences. They have a sound all their own, comparisons and name-checks aside, and on 200 Years that sound is starting to steal the spotlight.
- Any Given Tuesday

" - "One Long Apology" Review"

Rating: 4/5
Released: 2006
Reviewer: Nathan Atnikov

On their debut album, Baltimore based The Payola Reserve create blissful ‘70s-inspired pop that blends Elvis Costello with Tom Petty, and throw in a little modern day alt-country for good measure. The song writing team of Ben Pranger and Al Pacheco are surprisingly comfortable on their first effort, as One Long Apology displays the confidence of seasoned veterans, not first-timers.

Throughout most of the album, the band elegantly manages to make social commentary without sounding pretentious. Opener ‘Music Is Not Music’ has all the potential to be a boring retread, but manages to avoid it. The real gem, however, is ‘Brave New Radio,’ on which Pranger channels Ric Ocasek with such enthusiasm that you can’t help but be sucked in.

Brimming with equal parts cockiness and playfulness – both well deserved – The Payola Reserve make a concerted statement with One Long Apology. This is one band to keep a serious eye on. -

"The Big Takeover - "One Long Apology" Review"

Elvis Costello circa Goodbye Cruel World with Tom Waits singing? The alt-country Kinks of Muswell Hillbillies hinting at “Celluloid Heroes” to come? Neil Young Americana with Jeff Tweedy moderninity? Baltimore quartet The Payola Reserve are all these things, and still more, in a well-crafted, well-sung, well-produced (full and dripping!) delivery all over One Long Apology. Ringing guitars from lead singer Ben Pranger and sidekick Al Pacheco play with each other, and you’ll think “You’re an American Girl” has been taken over by a less commercial power-pop brand (“Illegal”). Or they hit the piano for a Beatles ballad brimming with beauty and sadness on “Lay In Wait” (“Let it Be” meets “Sexy Sadie”), while a Lou Reed / Marianne Faithful vocal keys the dreamy “Seasick on Shore Leave.” If this is one long apology, then they shouldn’t be so hard on themselves. It’s everybody else who should prostrate themselves and beg forgiveness. (

~Jack Rabid, Editor: The Big Takeover
- The Big Takeover - Jack Rabid

"PopMatters: "A Great Intersection of Past and Present Sounds""

Say some fairly successful British Invasion band of the mid ‘60s decided to expand upon their infectious melodies and head-shaking rhythms to create a new direction in rock and roll. And say, for the sake of this hypothetical, that this new direction became what we know as the alternative country movement; had this happened, the aural result might sound something like The Payola Reserve. The Baltimore quartet combine the folksy charms and arrangements of country rockers with an early British rock aesthetic. Truth be told, the unsigned band does so with such success that they should be snatched up by a label any day now. Standout tracks include opener “Grade A Television”, the rootsy “All Things Are Better in Heaven” and the title track. A great intersection of past and present sounds, 200 Years is an engaging record that displays a band with a bright future. - PopMatters

""What Would Keith Richards Think?""

Dagger Reviews – 01.14.08
Review: The Payola Reserve, "200 Years"

Baltimore, MD bunch whose 2nd record is brimming with such confidence that they tell the record industry what they wanna do (not the other way around). The songs range from folky rock to some sorta Appalachian music to something with a bit more swagger to it (like the guitar-heavy “Portrait Society”). The back photos looks like the Stones recording at Muscle Shoals or something so give ‘em credit for looking cool but ya’ gotta give them more than that because they can write infectious songs too. W.W.K.R.T. ? (What would Keith Richards think?). - Dagger Reviews

""Rich Lyrics and Mind Altering Flashback Sounds"- Famous Indie Minute"

The new CD “200 Years” symbolizes major growth for The Payola Reserve. This is a mature, heady LP that draws vivid pictures with rich lyrics and mind-altering flashback sounds. Songs like “Grade A Television” bring us back to a much more contented and uncomplicated time in music. - Famous Indie Minute

""A Nice Rewind to the Days of Soulful Music"- MobileBeat@Billboard"

Pranger’s voice twanged into the hearts of the audience as he shared the mic with his harmonica. The combination of his voice with the bluesy rock melodies were a nice rewind to the days where soulful music superceded hip, hot radio edits. These guys kept reminding me of someone I love to hear, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until they closed their set with a Neil Young cover. -

"Performing Songwriter Magazine"

If you dig rootsy, retro, Southern garage rock with a vocalist who sounds like a sexier Elvis Costello, you’ll love the Payola Reserve’s latest, 200 Years. While they pay homage to their influences—you’ll hear traces of Kinks and Wilco—the group puts a unique stamp on tried-and-true storytelling songs. - Performing Songwriter


200 YEARS - July 2007
-full-length CD
-Rec/Prod/Mix/Mastered by The Payola Reserve: Baltimore, USA
-CMJ Top 200, Fall 2007
1. Grade A Television
2. Jugband Joan
3. Portrait Society
4. All Things Are Better In Heaven
5. Lost Wind Craze
6. Henrietta
7. Around That Long
8. Money For Old Rope
9. Horse Opera
10. Never Been High
11. 200 Years
12. Going Army
13. Ode On Bobbie

-Full Length Debut
-CMJ Top 200f (#176 - Spring '06)
-Written & Recorded by Ben Pranger and Al Pacheco
-Mixed & Mastered by Al Pacheco
1. music is not music
2. an eastern western
3. brave new radio
4. imaginary side
5. storm's gonna come
6. illegal
7. lay in wait
8. seasick on shore leave
9. anything but ghosts
10. antiquing

LAY IN WAIT - May 2005
-Debut EP
-Track Listing:
1. Everything's Fine
2. Brave New Radio
3. Illegal
4. Lay In Wait
5. Last Man On Earth
6. Antiquing




Clearpath Management

If it's possible for a band to embody both vintage sound and contemporary relevance, The Payola Reserve are on a mission to do just that – purists seeking musical revelation. This is a band out to make people remember a time when music mattered.

The latest album "200 Years" positions them well on this journey. Rock, folk, country, bluegrass, pop, soul…these words all apply on paper but sound empty next to the train whistle blow of Jugband Joan, the assured city strut of Portrait Society, the forlorn harmonica of All Things Are Better In Heaven. With geographic precision this record evokes The Payola Reserve’s native Baltimore, the two-step of the Appalachians, the brass sheen of Memphis.

All of this bodes well for the band’s future. That is, if lead singer Ben Pranger could get off the freewheeling apocalyptic trip he’s on throughout one of the collection’s more irreverent songs, Around That Long. Launched in 2005, Pranger, lead guitarist/keyboardist Alberto Pacheco, bassist Danny O'Neill and drummer Ken Fisher have all the elements of dark Americana, but with a psychedelic edge and dynamic instrumentation, infusing Rhodes, organ, piano, melodica, slide guitar, dobro, castanets, harmonica and sax.

“According to your television everyone is rich,” cries the first line of Grade A Television. With that the listener is both rebuked and invited to a world littered with sirens and sawdust, a world where Joan of Arc hails from West Virginia and folksinger Bobbie Gentry is the ultimate muse. The characters inhabiting these songs are 21st Century America’s outcasts, either unwilling or unable to stomach the surreal climate of fear, anxiety and mindless entertainment.

Songs like Around That Long and Going Army whimsically address this anxiety both lyrically and musically. The former confronts apocalyptic fear-mongers with sarcastic humor, “When they say they’re getting ready for the rapture, I picture local weather-men enraged,” while Going Army employs jingle-like hooks as a satire of a well-known ad campaign. Lost Wind Craze comes closest to the emotional core of the record, its narrator “carved out, inching away, wheeling around in a lost wind craze,” perhaps the plight of a young band trying to get back what it knows is gone.

It’s fittingly ironic that the band is named after the legendary payola practices of the music industry, yet they’ve been huge on college radio without spending a cent. Their debut 2005 EP Lay in Wait received regular airplay at 226 college stations, while One Long Apology reached #176 on the CMJ national college charts, receiving spins on over 150 stations. Not bad for recordings done from a basement studio in, as they call it, “the Great American Slum.”