Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Traindodge

February 22, 2004

Traindodge

Best Element: The lyrics here are thought-provoking.

Genre: Grungy Hardcore

Label: ascetic records www.asceticrecords.com

Website: www.traindodge.com

The ultimate test of an album is if it has staying power. If you want to go back and listen to it again and again, then it is a good album, despite what the critics may say about it. The weird thing about Traindodge is that the music sounds really good when you’re listening to it, but when you stop listening to it, it all becomes this sludgy mess in my mind. It all seems to run together, and I really have no ambition to hear it again. When I listen again, I remember why I liked it, but it takes some serious effort to get into it.

I hesitate to classify this, because the first thing that comes to mind is ‘grunge’. Perhaps there’s a new term for grunge that I missed out on, but that’s what this is. From the sludgy, dissonant guitars to the half-screamed, half-sung vocals, this has all the hallmarks that personified early 90′s. But this isn’t a Nirvana cover band. They have infused the sound with modern hardcore vibes (Knuckles, On a Lake) and the occasional mathy riff (Five Forks, Curtain Call), to create an angrier sound than the wailing, depressed melancholy that was most grunge.

But the real treat here is different than all of that. “The Anecdote” is a subdued, meandering rock piece that builds in emotion by repeating a single sample over and over (the screamed word “Run”). It’s extremely eerie and very interesting.
The lyrics are equally chaotic, as none of them are even halfway understandable on the first glance. It takes a LONG time for these lyrics to sink in, but once you finally think about them long enough, they suddenly become very understandable and cool. They talk mostly about  Unfortunately, when listening to the album, it’s hard to catch what he’s singing/screaming, which relegates the lyrics booklet to nothing more than a booklet of poetry. That’s not a bad thing.

This is an album that cancels itself out. It has great lyrics, but it has unintelligible delivery. It has a great sound, but it doesn’t stick with you very long. They are extremely talented, and I still can’t figure out why this doesn’t stick longer. “On a Lake of Dead Trees” is a good album, but it’s missing something.

The Jet City Fix – Play to Kill

The Jet City Fix – Play to Kill
Best Feature: It rocks like you wish you could.

Genre: Rock, completely and totally.
Label: Infect Records www.infectrecords.com
Website: http://thejetcityfix.com

If you were to mash glam, punk, and metal together, that would be one freaking crazy band. They’d have the rock-star lifestyle, they’d play fast, loud, boisterous music, and they wouldn’t care what you think. They’d also have a heck of a lot of fun with it.

That band is The Jet City Fix. They play their glam/punk/metal with such reckless abandon that even if you don’t like it, you’ll be tapping your foot. They sing about how they “love to rock”, then throw in a blissfully self-indulgent guitar solo, then tone it back down so they can explode all over again (That’s all in “The Life”). It’s completely, and totally, awesome. You can’t play this stuff loud enough on your stereo, cause the guitars are just so wonderfully crunchy and upbeat and rockin out (especially awesome is “Sick of Drugs”).

Their vocals are raw, screamy, whiny, and absolutely perfect for this band. Aerosmith seems to be one of their influences, only not THAT whiny.

There is no subtlety on this album. Don’t look for it. This band is here to make you rock. If you can’t rock to this, you just suck. I would talk more about all the songs, but then you would think that you know the album and that you don’t have to go get it. WRONG! You must get this.

You Say 'Take a Picture'

Song: You Say ‘Take a Picture’

Artist: Sleep to Forget

Album: Casting Fate EP
Final Word: Not the best, not the worst.

Fast music and slow music have always co-existed peacefully. People have experimented with putting them both in a song, but no one had really done it too much until emo came along. Now, it seems that everyone is combining soft and hard for contrast. That makes it harder to find good songs that do both well. Sleep to Forget may not have created the greatest soft/hard song ever, but it’s an enjoyable piece nonetheless.

“You Say Take A Picture” has not one, but two mellow sections that enhance this song: a minute-long intro and a short bridge. If judged on the intro alone, this song is the song that Brand New forgot to put on “Deja Entendu”. The quiet, morose strumming of an electric guitar is all that accompanies nearly whispered vocals. It’s very haunting and Brand New-esque. I enjoyed it very much, and can confidently say it’s the best part of the song.

After an abrupt switch to electricity, we quickly find that Sleep to Forget is actually a band that loves new school emo (Matchbook Romance, Story of the Year, Taking Back Sunday). Their guitars feel like punk, but aren’t; they feel like rock, but not exactly. It’s a good description of new-school emo, but it’s nothing to get too excited over.

The vocals here are passable, as is the melody, but neither really stand out, because they play mellow a lot more convincingly than they play fast. They may have passion for both, but their mellow work is much easier to enjoy. The only exception is their drummer, who shines in the loud sections with consistently varied and interesting work.

And now, for the final grades: Excellent slow song + Average rock song = Pretty good overall song.  Check it out here: http://www.hxcmp3.com/bands/4123.

Unique guitar playing

Best Feature: Unique guitar playing.
Genre: Instrumental Indie-rock
Label: Sunset Alliance www.sunsetalliance.com
Website: N/a

The first thing I thought when I got “Obey the Cattle” was: “Whoa. This is a small release.” I didn’t really mean it in regards to its length, as it’s plenty long. I meant it in the way the CD has been put together. This CD features ten songs, none of them titled. 9 of these songs are instrumental, with a guitar being the main instrument. There is only one picture as art, no thank-yous, no lyrics, nothing. The only words on the entire album are on the spine  (which clearly tells us that this is “Obey the Cattle” by Rajiv Parel), and on his record label’s insignia (Sunset Alliance).

So this is a very unassuming release. That’s rather odd, as Mr. Parel is very, very good at playing his guitar, and good guitarists are usually full of themselves. But not this time: Parel continually amazed me with his humble, mellow style that borrows heavily from Indian music. The music gives you a feel of drifting away, which is very nice.

The problem with this is one that plagues many instrumental albums: It all runs together. And not only does it all run together, but as you get to the songs farther and farther into the album, it gets harder and harder to enjoy. It’s already a peculiar style, but once this peculiar style is over-exploited, it just becomes hard to swallow. Once you finally break through the shell (around the 6th listen to the album -yes, I have spent that much time listening to this album) all the subtleties break through to you, and this becomes a stellar release, full of intricate things. It just takes a long time to break into. Like Radiohead, only less pretentious.

It’s clear that Mr. Parel wants us to judge the album as a whole instead of judging songs alone. The impressions left after listening to the album all the way through:

1.        He’s a really, really good guitarist.

2.        He’s really hard to get into.

3.        If you take the time to get into it, you’ll REALLY like this.

If Mr. Parel were to push his album, it would probably sound something like this: “You know, you could…maybe…buy my cd….cause it’s cool music…perhaps…”. And that’s a tragedy, cause this deserves much more laud than it has received.

It's soft, short, and well-done.

February 16, 2004

Best Feature: It’s soft, short, and well-done.
Genre: indie-rock
Label: N/a

Website. www.septembermusic.com

September is an indie-rock band that soothes you a whole lot more than it rocks you. I come from this background of music, which is alternately good and bad for a band. If they make good music, then I will like them a LOT. If they have bad music, well, I can trash it really easily.

Thankfully, September is a good band. All six of these songs have the same feel, and where some bands would get monotonous with it, September manages to make it flow. Their vocals are impressive on the album, and especially in the acoustic closer “Burning Bridges”, where he pulls no tricks, stays in his comfort zone, and produces a fantastic melody.

When he gets out of his vocal comfort zone, I get uncomfortable as well.  September fancies themselves as a band that’s hard enough to need a screamer when, in actuality, all a screamer does is act annoying and detract from their songs. “So Someday” is a harder song for them, but it isn’t a hard song when compared to other rock bands. To emphasize their ‘hardness’ they throw in a screamer who takes over the song, and it just doesn’t work. I mean when you can sing and play a beautiful song expertly, why try to be something else?

The guitars here are mostly simple, but they serve their purpose well: tactfully and thoughtfully delivering a base for the vocals. They have memorable lines once in a while, like on “Burning Bridges”, but mostly the vocals carry this album.
September is off to a very good start with this EP. They need to stop screaming, and their guitars could become a little more exciting, but this is a very good debut EP, and one that I highly enjoy.

Your Codename is Milo

February 8, 2004

Alright, I admit it. Every critic wants to find the next big thing. We critics label everything that’s out of the ordinary with large adjectives (such as amazing, incredible, and fantastic) and then say it’s ‘about to break’. If only we ruled the music world. But, as it is with everything, consumers rule. And they usually don’t agree with what the next big thing should be.

That being said, “Your Code Name Is: Milo” may not be the next big thing. I want them to be, but who knows. All commercialism aside, I want this to ‘get discovered’ because it’s some fantastic music.

YCNI:M is a post-hardcore band. No, seriously. This is not your whiny emo-wants-to-be-hardcore post-hardcore. This is true hardcore that got messed up and toned down. You can’t call it emo cause there’s a sense of urgency and power that is missing from real emo.

Their guitars are pushed to the max on every song, but in a different way every time on the four songs. On “All Roads Lead to Fault”, they lay out dissonant chords to make you have a reaction. You’re going to love it or hate it, and that’s the way they wanted it. The vocals here only help that, as they are screamed out in a frenetic, erratic style that is completely awesome. The song ends up feeling extremely urgent and pushing, which leads straight into “Iron Chef”.

Now “Iron Chef” has a completely different feel. It has more of a verse/chorus/verse format, whereas the previous song was more of verse/chorus/verse/verse/verse/halfverse/halfchorus/other thing/other other thing, etc etc. It’s a good song in itself, but it doesn’t have the complexity that “All Roads…” did.

In a return to their frenetic roots, “The Problem” throws in sharp contrast between soft and loud and shows their efficiency with guitar effects, as the guitars have a wailing, siren sound that lends a crazy feel to the song. They also have a great breakdown placed in the middle of this song.

The closer of this EP (Lions, then the Donkeys) is quite possibly the best song here, as it shows the best example of their noodling, ever-twisting guitar lines over a solid bed of distortion. Complicated chaos like this takes a long time to put together, and I’m glad that they took the time to do it.

This EP is a maniacally wonderful album. If you love Radiohead, emo,or hardcore, then you will love this band. This is Radiohead for the emocore generation. Now, if we could just get them onto to the I-Pods of American teenagers.

Ambulance by Roma Secrets

February 3, 2004

Single Review: Ambulance by Roma Secrets.

This low-fi emo-rock epic starts off with two vocalists trading off vocals line for line while a piano plays a simplistic, beautiful line. The lyrics here are of the Alkaline Trio variety: concise, violent, and anti-romance. The vocalists’ voices play into the theme well, as both of their lines are a little askew and their voices don’t exactly mesh the music, creating a unique, deranged aura when paired with the lyrics.

Unexpectedly, the two vocalists scream at once, unleashing a blisteringly fast emo guitar attack that demands moshing. The guitar line here amazed me. It’s one of those lines that you sit back and say “Dang….that fits PERFECTLY right there.” If it had been the lead riff to a song, I’m not so sure it would have worked. But placed unceremoniously in the middle of a song, this riff is awesome.

That triumphant section segues into another melancholy section, where the bass is featured. Both vocalists return, this time singing melody and countermelody over this brooding chaos. Then, just when you thought you had this song figured out, the drums and bass blast back to a rocket tempo, but the guitars do not, creating a frenzied drum’n’bass sound under a genteel, single guitar melody that is hanging over from the melancholy section. It’s freaking awesome.

Finally, the heavy guitars return once again, and it’s an all out frenzy until the end of this four minute epic. This song is the most original piece of emo I’ve heard in a long time. If the rest of their upcoming album is as good as this single, I will be worshipping this album.

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