George Hrab is all about full exposure these days. On his new album, Interrobang to be released this weekend at a concert at the Icehouse the Beth-based musician practically bares all, with introspective songs and a 16-page booklet boasting shots of him in the buff.
Hrab went into serious gym rat mode over the spring and summer to prep for the disc's revealing cover; the six-pack abs don't lie. But the musician still thinks he's fat just a minor indication of the duality that lies at his music's core.
Hrab moved to Bethlehem from North Jersey in the '90s to study music at Moravian College. After graduating, he broke into the biz playing drums for the Philadelphia Funk Authority.
Though Philly Funk keeps Hrab's hands in constant motion, he's found time to march to the beat of his own drum. He released three solo albums prior to Interrobang and started a side project called the Geologic Orchestra a 10-piece band that shares a horn section with Philadelphia Funk Authority.
At this weekend's concert with the Geologic Orchestra, he'll ditch his drumsticks to play the role of frontman. ''I mostly sing and act like a fool,'' he says. The past three years they've performed at the Icehouse, he's worn a lab coat while running and jumping around stage and holding up signs.
Hrab's songs are as entertaining as his stage presence. He croons about how squirrels are both ''cute'' and ''icky'' and about what a ''sham'' Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is.
This duality and skepticism is really what Hrab's music is all about.
''With doubt comes freedom. It's OK to question things. This is part of the new album questions and answers,'' he says. ''I like to question things and look at them with a skeptical eye, whether it be late-night infomercials or religious thought.''
But he also admits, ''Psychics like John Edward or other idiots that just disgust me to no end can become easy targets after a while.'' So on his latest album, he points the finger back at himself. ''I went after myself to see what I could come up with,'' he says.
Many of his songs are cathartic and explore his frustration with people who don't think clearly. ''The frustration tends to inspire writing so people know, 'Don't piss George off or he'll write a song about you,''' he says.
While packing his songs and live shows with what he calls ''observational skepticism,'' he manages to keep the mood light by wrapping them in a thick layer of humor. ''I'm sort of shmuck No. 1, so a lot of the observations are about myself. I'm only mean-spirited to the people who really deserve it,'' he jokes.
Of course, with 10 musicians performing groove-oriented rock, jazz, funk and hip-hop, there's plenty of time for dancing as well as questioning and contemplating.
According to Hrab, the wide variety of music styles they incorporate into one show gives them broad audience appeal.
''My approach is eclectic; there are never two similar songs in a row,'' he says. ''I think the idea of finding your style and sticking with it is bogus; when you look at most peoples' album collections or iPods, you'll see they have eclectic tastes. I think that's how it should be.''
The artists you'd find in his collection and some of his music's biggest influences include the Beatles, Elvis Costello, the Ohio Players, the Staple Singers, King Crimson, Stravinsky, Audioslave, Green Day, Duran Duran and Outkast; with Frank Zappa and David Byrne topping the lists.
''I grew up listening to Zappa and the Talking Heads. You can shake your ass to it, but it's still really smart and interesting,'' he says. ''If I can reach 5 percent of the talent of Zappa or David Byrne, I'd be happy.''
So far, he's off to a good start. With other bands, he's performed at the White House and during 2003 Super Bowl. Now he's wants to create a buzz about his solo works and the Geologic Orchestra, and is hopeful the Icehouse show will help.
''I think what we do is really fun, different, original and entertaining,'' he says. ''And if people were exposed to it, they'd have a good time.''
To the (naked) beat of his own drum
HRAB CD REVIEWInterrobang
Prog-rock/ jazz: B
On catchy track 4 ''Ya Famous?'' of George Hrab's new album, he sing/speaks the words, ''I won't be famous any time soon, but I can play a pretty fine tune.''
He could not have said it any better. The Moravian alum's new album totes a weird quirkiness to it that sometimes makes it more of a struggle than a listen. The tunes aren't bad, just broadly eclectic.
The inquisitive track ''?'' a word apparently wasn't good enough starts with a Hendrix-like guitar lick, making your ears perk up, but unfortunately Hrab's drawn-out lyrics make it a hard tune to stay with.
He sings ''We're all about the culture of life, unless you live in Texas and are sitting on death row and it helps if you're retarded.''
This interesting dare of a song begins as a strange spaced-out trip, but unfortunately continues to make you just want out think Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing Las Vegas.
Hrab's a good egg and he has potential in progressive rock land. There are good tracks mixed into the not-so-good.
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