New Album by Third Class Plays Off Sci-fi Imagery

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – If the new album from Third Class seems like the soundtrack to a bizarre low-budget sci-fi flick by an artsy auteur – well, it sort of is.

“Ultrasonic Sonar Signals” is the sixth album from the Youngstown-based rockers. While it retains the whimsy the band is known for, it’s also a bit of a departure.

Take the song “Sci-fi Euphoria.” It starts with a swirling keyboard pattern that could be from an ’80s video game and then layers on a synth-y riff and vocals in singer Lee Boyle’s declarative style. The result is infectious.

Boyle, who is also the songwriter, guitarist and keyboardist for Third Class, said he named the album before it was fully written – and that’s what gave it its direction.

“I liked these words together – Ultrasonic Sonar Signals,” he said. “It sounds spacey, aquatic and sci-fi.”

Boyle wrote the songs “like a writing exercise,” in which a writer is given a theme or a phrase and then must build a story and characters around it.

“Ultrasonic” might be the key word there because it refers to sound waves with a frequency that is above the upper limit of human hearing. For example, a sound that a dog could hear but not a person.

Boyle explains:

“A lot of it started with conversations with my wife,” he said. “We have two French bulldogs who are like alien pigs. I was musing about how they actually came from another planet to study us, and I wrote a string of songs that follows that thread.”

Boyle sees the whole thing as “some sort of weird love language that I’m building with my wife and our pet family.”

Still, the songs are vaguely interconnected, even if there really isn’t a story there.

“A lot of it is just making stuff up, but with an undercurrent of Ohio and love songs and friends,” Boyle said. “It’s just heavier on the imagery than the narrative.”

Third Class also made a film to accompany the album and will play them both at a listening party Saturday, Jan. 27, at Cedars West End.

The film fits the mood of the album. “It’s an abstract, non-narrative film,” Boyle said.

Boyle is part of Bullskit Productions, a troupe that has been making short comedy videos for many years and posting them on YouTube.

The “Ultrasonic Sonar Signals” film is Bullskit’s first noncomedy production.

Third Class will not perform at the Cedars event. Instead, the 50-minute film will be screened on a loop all evening, while the new album is played over the speakers. Unlike a typical record-release show, the band will be free to relax and talk to guests. “It will be a makeup session for all of the times that we couldn’t stop to talk because we were packing up our gear,” said Boyle, who will also be celebrating his 40th birthday that night.

“Ultrasonic” is the band’s first album since 2021’s “Haunted Until the Very End” but fans won’t have to wait long for the next release. The band will release six songs later this year, packaging them as a pair of EPs.

Boyle, who grew up in East Palestine, has kept his childhood in mind on many of his songs. He wrote fondly about his hometown in his song “East Palestine,” but has yet to address the 2023 train derailment that thrust it into the national spotlight.

That will change – to an extent – when the EPs are released.

“One of the songs, ‘My Personal Ohio,’ overidealizes East Palestine and Ohio,” Boyle said. “It could be a soundtrack to the derailment, even though it doesn’t directly address it.”

Pictured at top: The new album from Third Class has a science fiction flavor.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.