North Carolina's Mad Crush Finds Humor in Love on Debut

 John Elderkin and Joanna Sattlin of Mad Crush. Photo by Chris Florio

John Elderkin and Joanna Sattlin of Mad Crush. Photo by Chris Florio

Rating: 7/10

While North Carolina's Mad Crush is a brand new band, its members have worked with regional and international acts that you likely know. Mad Crush founder and vocalist John Elderkin is a former member of regional favorites Popes and has recorded with the likes of Chris Stamey and Stuart Lehrman. He is joined by drummer Chuck Garrison (Superchunk), violinist Laura Thomas (Ray Charles, Jay-Z), and guitarist Mark Whelan (Popes, The Veldt), as well as the band's sole newcomer, vocalist Joanna Sattlin, making her national debut with the group. Their self-titled debut album drops Nov. 16.

Mad Crush's debut shines in the vocal interplay between Elderkin and Sattlin. Elderkin's genial delivery brings to mind Wings-era Paul McCartney and it serves him well as the album's eternal optimist/everyman. Sattlin's delivery is much more wry, and her cynical approach is a perfect counterpoint for Elderkin.

This duality is best displayed on the album's first track, “Time for a Love Song?” Playing a bit like a modern (and considerably less creepy) retelling of the holiday classic “Baby, It's Cold Outside,” Elderkin declares his intention to write Sattlin a love song, only to have her declare “oh great... what could possibly go wrong?” Undeterred, Elderkin goes big with his declarations, that he loves her “like the sun and the stars and the moon,” with the deadpan response “It's been two weeks, man... too soon.” It's obvious that Elderkin and Sattlin are having fun with the song and it should be a real crowd pleaser live.

Another highlight of the album is “My Pre-Existing Conditions.” It's a phrase that has dominated the recent election cycle and Elderkin brilliantly turns it not to health care but to physical and character faults that have made him unlucky in love. He tells a potential lover “before we sweep each other off our feet” he should inform her of his past rejections due to an increasingly silly list of pre-existing conditions that include knobby knees, two left feet, leaving up the toilet seat, and sometimes saying the wrong thing.

While those are the album's two best songs, there really isn't any filler on Mad Crush. Over the course of the album's seven songs and compact 24 minute run time, the band bounces between fiddle ballads (“Somewhere Warm”), folksy rockers (“Stay in Bed”), and rockabilly inspired electric guitar romps (“Making Complaints”) with Elderkin's sense of humor at the fore throughout.

Mad Crush has a pair of CD release shows scheduled over the next month, as well as a few other North Carolina dates through Januar. Here's where you can check them out for yourself:

Nov. 24- Arcana- Durham, NC- CD Release Show
Dec. 22- The Evening Muse- Charlotte, NC- CD Release Party
Jan. 6- Fullsteam Brewery- Durham, NC
Feb. 2- The Kraken- Chapel Hill, NC