The Generals
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The Generals

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This review might be a little biased, but allow me to explain. For the past couple years I’ve been trying to find a CD that reminds me of outer space. You know, “Weee-ooooh-waaaahhh!”—shit like that. And while it seems like space music would be easy to find—especially now, since we’re in the future—there’s actually not much out there in that genre (unless you want to buy old-school Yanni, which, believe me, I’ve done).

The point is, I really didn’t expect such a cosmic sound to come from Sacramento’s the Generals. But it did. And now I can’t stop listening to their latest, self-titled CD (produced by Joe Johnston at Pus Cavern).

For lack of better description, the intro sounds like Buddhist yoga aliens chanting on the rings of Saturn. After the sprawling space intro plays for about a minute, Matt Sertich (vocals, guitar, keys) calls out with strength and righteous indignation, “Violence / takes its toll.” This alarming, anti-battle cry marks the beginning of “Sing for Sorrow,” the first, perhaps most beautiful song on the disc.

Keyboardist, drummer and programmer Kirk Janowiak’s wide-open and airy instrumentation paired with Sertich’s iron-clad, focused voice is perfect. If you possess ears and a heart, the composition will blow you away. I’ve seen Sertich perform with just a guitar and was knocked down by the power of his voice, which reminds me of a less pretentious Bono (or Davey Havok, if Havok had talent). In fact, it’s almost impossible not to compare this disk to U2’s War: virtuous lyrics (“Now I owe you everything! Everything!”) and choruses that belong at the end of movies where the protagonists emerge triumphantly, yelling in the rain with their fists raised toward the heavens.

The Generals, it turns out, are masters of tense, urgent and climactic music. Perhaps the only question is that glimmer of affect in Sertich’s voice, which surfaces in some of the slower-paced ballads (“Good Morning”). Is he British or just profoundly sad? Turns out, it’s just a bit of old-fashioned melodrama. (“I sat by your side and I / held on your hand so tight”).

But if you can’t tell from song titles like “Gardens and Landscapes,” the Generals are going for a certain melodramatic beauty, so an affected delivery is almost necessary. And in this age, when the instinct (and the easy way out) is to write soundtracks for doom and gloom, odes to beauty are very much needed and appreciated.

With such carefully planned instrumentation, a tendency toward climaxing at the appropriate time and a sweet voice that bends toward theatrical, beauty is easily achieved. On top of all that, there’s the cosmic, space aspect, which makes this CD easily one of the best out of Sacramento for the year. (Josh Fernandez)

- Sacramento News and Review




The Generals are a Sacramento band that I am liking more and more each time I see them. They are one of my favorites right now, and their ever-growing crowd tells me I'm not alone in my thinking. Singer Matt Sertich and drummer Kirk Janowiak have been playing together since they were teenagers in the band Pocket Change. They followed that with the more recent Zero To Heaven, and then a couple of years ago they brought Blane Barker in on bass and the trio became The Generals. 'Save Me' is their 6 song release of 2007. The production of this EP nicely captures the lush, layered sounds that The Generals bring to their live shows. Matt's full dreamy vocals sound like they are right out of 1985 and are perfect for The Generals big beat, keyboard and guitar driven sound. Think of a more driving Echo and The Bunnymen, or a less dark Cure. Each song stands firmly on it's own, with strong melody and great production. There isn't a weak track on the album, but the definite standouts are the opening track, "Alive," the title track, "Save Me" and the album closer "Trains", which I think is one of the best local songs of the last year. This is the kind of song that could have been a dance club hit in 1987. In 2008 it's just a damn good song. A nice surprise on the album is their version of The Beatles ' Eleanor Rigby'. The song alternates between big beat, pulsing bass interludes and moments when it seems too much is going on, but those moments are the best because that's when The Generals truly own the song. I cannot emphasize enough how good this album sounds, and the more I turn it up, the better it sounds. So beautiful. Like a roaring waterfall of music. -- Jerry Perry - Alive and Kicking


Article in the Sacramento Bee by Rachel Leibrock


November 2, 2008
Sacramento Single: The Generals' "Trains"

Matt Sertich and Kirk Janowiak have been playing together for more than 15 years so when the pair's latest band, The Generals, was suddenly whittled down from three to two, the old friends took it in stride and decided to remain a duo.
"The idea just seemed kind of fresh," says Sertich, who previously played with Janowiak in Pocket Change and Zero to Heaven.
"We just have a really good chemistry - we write really well together," Sertich says.
With a shared love of 80s rock and British pop, Sertich (guitar, keyboard, vocals) and Janowiak (drums, keyboards) started writing songs after Zero to Heaven disbanded in 2005. They played its first show, with bassist Blane Barker, in 2006.
Now, Sertich says, no bassist is no problem - even on stage.
"We just program the bass into an iPod - the strings and other stuff, too," he says.
"It's awesome and it doesn't take away from the spontaneity when we're playing live."
The Generals released its debut album "Save Me" earlier this year and plan to enter the studio this month to record another. In the meantime, check out "Trains" at www.sacbee.com/sacramentosingle
The Generals
Song: "Trains"
Style: Spacey, reflective rock
Behind the song: "I'd just made a lot of changes in my life at the point when I wrote this song," Sertich says. "I lived ... near the train tracks and every night I'd hear the train go by. It shook the house but it was really very comforting."
That song, he says, is about a past relationship and changes he's made in his life since it ended.
With a swooping melody, "Trains" hits its rhythmic stride mid-way through the song - just like a locomotive gaining speed..
"It starts off pretty soft but once that pre-chorus hits it sounds really big." - Sacramento Bee


Discography

'Trains'- 5 song demo CD
'Save Me'- 6 song CD
'The Generals'- 13 song full length CD

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Bio

About The Generals
Founding members Matt Sertich and Kirk Janowiak had been playing live together since 1993 in the form of bands such as Pocket Change (CA) and Zero To Heaven. It was not until after the demise of Zero To Heaven in the summer of 2005 that Matt and Kirk decided to regroup and give birth to The Generals named after a song title by one of their influences The Damned. For the first 6 or 7 months The Generals were just a studio project which consisted of early recording and song preparation done in Kirks kitchen on his synthesizer and computer. Recorded keyboard and temporary drum tracks were then taken to a bigger more capable studio where Matt would lay down his vocals, guitar, piano, and Kirk would lay down the live drum tracks. This early recording was a 5 song CD titled 'Trains' demo.
In order to perform live, The Generals felt they needed a bass player. After posting an ad on Craigslist, The Generals found themselves a bass player in the form of Blane Barker. Fresh out of music school in LA., Blane completed The Generals line up to this point.

With the full line up now in place The Generals played their first gig on September 11th 2006 at The Press Club in Sacramento CA. This line up would then continue on performing through out California, Washington, and Oregon for the next couple of years. The Generals also recorded and released their first official release titled 'Save Me' on their own label Generals Music Limited.

Toward the end of the summer in 2008 Blane had parted ways with The Generals and relocated to Los Angeles joining up with alternative rock band The Paper Dolls. Matt and Kirk had decided to carry on as a 2 piece band rather than find a replacement for Blane. The Generals then proceded to write more material prompting the duo to enter the studio again to work with Joe Johnston (Deftones, Cake). This time the result was a full length CD. The Generals are set to release their first full length which has already been started to receive very positive feedback as the Sacramento News and Review states -"With such carefully planned instrumentation, a tendency toward climaxing at the appropriate time and a sweet voice that bends toward theatrical, beauty is easily achieved. On top of all that, there’s the cosmic, space aspect, which makes this CD easily one of the best out of Sacramento for the year."

The Generals are also an outstanding pop group nominee at the 2009 Sammies Music Awards.