Tony DeNardo is perhaps best known locally as Tony “Muggs,” the bassist for the blues-rock power trio The Muggs.
But today, we’re listening to a new single from his solo project DUDE. Whereas the Detroit-based songwriter may have started out alone seven years ago, he has a full band of players that include Zach Pliska on drums, Vince Rodriguez on lead guitar and Stephen Garcia on rhythm guitar.
“Blue Canary” is a preview of DUDE’s forthcoming second full-length album, “Autobiograffiti.” And the music that accompanies the visuals certainly has an epic sonic stage-setting, with psychedelic sounds akin to a vinyl record being played in reverse and tossed into a whirlpool, tided over by a dazzling double and triple-tracked vocal that pulls you onto a propulsive groove for a few riff-y measures until the primary melody takes you over and gives you a swaying sense of levitation for the next four minutes.
Relearning how to play
For a whirlwind year, back in their first year of high activity and local performances, DeNardo and fellow Muggs founder Danny Methric were contemporaries of iconic Detroit garage-rock bands like The Dirtbombs, The Gore Gore Girls, and (prior to later fame) White Stripes. The bassist for the Muggs, with Methric on guitar and lead vocals, DeNardo was sidelined by a stroke on stage in 2001 that would take away the use of his right arm, but as soon as he was able, he started teaching himself how to perform rhythmic arrangements on a Fender Rhodes keyboard using only his left hand by 2003.
The Muggs have been recording and releasing music throughout the last 15 years, but it’s notable that the last five years have seen their fan base explode throughout Europe (particularly in Spain). While the Muggs specialized in high-adrenaline 70’s-style blues rock with lots of grit and swagger, DUDE gave DeNardo an outlet to get in touch with his love for late 60’s pop-rock and paisley psychedelic folk singers. With the band behind him, he’s tapping into songscapes that conjure the balance of experimental sonic phantasmagoria with instantly indelible choruses and catchy hooks. Think Sgt. Pepper’s or Pet Sounds or pioneering tracks of sublime strangeness like The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High.”
While Methric would take lead vocals in the Muggs, DeNardo has been able to let his dulcet voice soar with DUDE, able to balance between a tender lullaby or a soaring ballad.
There’s a wave full of energy on this track, with snaky guitar lines coiling around every verse and refrain, and super punchy drums and bass kicking everything forward. Not to be contained, that buoyancy from the rhythm section continues after every chorus, creating not one bridge (as is typical in pop convention) but three bridges where the lead guitar can jettison off into some expressive solos.
The vibe is to create a song that can simultaneously feel like a lost cut from the late 60’s but also entirely modern and cutting edge.