Akron, Ohio… An All-American City. The city that powered America’s ride into the 20th century as the tire capital of the world. Where the American dream came easy and Art Deco skyscrapers sprang up. As Akron declined, along with the rest of the industrial Midwest, it inspired something very different – music from area bands such as Devo, the Cramps, Chrissie Hynde and Tin Huey.
Two musicians and Akron natives — John Petkovic (Cobra Verde, Sweet Apple, Guided by Voices, Death of Samantha) and Patrick Carney (Black Keys) — found a common bond over music that came out of the Akron area, but also the city’s glorious past and tumultuous present.
“Akron, Ohio” is a celebration of their friendship. The debut album by Sad Planets is the product of two friends with storied careers and beloved bands coming getting together to have fun and record a batch of songs on the spot, in the moment.
The 10-song album mixes deft songwriting with experimental and eclectic sounds played on a multitude of instruments. It also expands the musical roles they play in their other bands. Yes, Carney plays drums, but also adds Enoesque synthesizers and other instruments to the mix. Petkovic does all the vocals and adds layers of guitars to the album.
“Just Landed” – an elegy about revisiting a long-gone place – is a spacey slice of psychedelic pop. It features J Mascis, who stopped by the studio during recording.
“J grabbed my guitar and just started playing along so we hit record,” says Petkovic. “It sums up the entire process… I would come up with chords and songs on the spot.”
“City Ghosts” and “Disappearing” are moody, cinematic soundtracks that recall drives they took around Akron during recording.
“Patrick asked if I wanted to come to Akron to jam with him in the studio,” says Petkovic, “I saw it as a chance to work with a longtime friend, but also an opportunity to reconnect with Akron in a very different way.”
Petkovic, a Cleveland resident, was born in Akron. Carney was leaving the city to live in Nashville. As a result, Akron came to play a unique role – as a ghost and a place that is as familiar as it is distant.
“Not of This World,” with its insurgent guitars, spacey interlude and synthesizer freak-outs, is a burst of “psychedelic trash” – one of the phrases Petkovic and Carney tossed out as a template when they started recording. “Yesterday Girls,” “I Want You to Want You” and “Bad Cells” are driving rock ‘n’ roll blasts that recall the most raucous elements of their other bands.
They met in 1999, by chance, at the Akron Art Museum. Carney approached Petkovic and told him that he was the nephew of Ralph Carney. The legendary multi-instrumentalist, who passed away in 2017, had recorded with Cobra Verde.
Twenty years later, that bond has resulted in an album of their own.