Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Gravity Propulsion System

May 31, 2004

Some bands rule. Some bands suck. Some have the potential to rule, but don’t. Gravity Propulsion System falls in the third category.

GPS is a post-grunge band, but not in the normal sense of the word. They build great, sludgy walls of gritty guitar noise; think the Deftones meets the White Stripes, with weird electronic noises layered on top. GPS sounds great at some points, such as the last 40 seconds of “Sleep (They’re Coming)”, but in other places it’s little more than harsh noise (“Note to Girlfriend”, “Solvent”). It’s chaotic and free-form, with few vocals; the ones that do appear, such as on “Sleep…” are droning and monotonous. Their amalgam of sounds comes off really good for a couple of songs, but about halfway through their 8-minute epic “Black Helicopter Undercurrent”, it’s easy to tune out and think about something else.

“Poison Rays of Sound” is creative, but it’s just not engaging enough. If this were an EP, it would be really cool. Once this sound is refined some more, GPS will be an excellent-sounding band. There’s just too much chaos to respond to at the moment.

Stellar songwriting and creative arrangements

May 29, 2004

Best Element: Stellar songwriting and creative arrangements.
Genre: Rock with an emo bent.
Label: N/a
Website: www.devicesinshift.com

So you’re walking down the street when some kid you don’t even know comes up and punches you in the face. Then he runs off. You’re so stunned you forget to get the license plate number….then you remember that only cars have license plate numbers.

Yeah, Devices in Shift is sort’ve like that; It hits you hard, leaves a mark, and runs off.

The members of DiS can cram more into 3 minutes than I can cram into a suitcase. It’s emo; it’s hardcore; it’s indie rock; it’s got electronic sounds programmed into it. The guitars grab you by the throat and don’t let go; the vocals hold the knife, and the bass is the man who does all the threatening…everything works together to create a fearless, powerful sound that pushes the boundaries of emo.

The groove on “This Nail Needs Hammering” is so intense that I couldn’t believe they’ve only been together for two years. The guitars are cascading and odd, the bass is thumping, the drums are caterwauling, and the vocals blister your ear drums. He doesn’t even scream, and the vocals are still intimidating. It’s that good.

And these three songs aren’t even mixed yet.

The Phoenix Rising

The Phoenix Rising rises out of the Chicago scene that’s rich in hardcore tradition (See Sevendayplague). But wait! It’s not hardcore. It’s a rock band, albeit one that has an uncommon sound. They also have a really cool name, unlike most bands today, who just have confusing ones that roll off the tongue well. This actually has meaning, in addition to the cool sound of it.

A thick, thundering noise comes bursting out of your speakers (or headphones) the second the music begins. The bass plays a huge part in this, driving the electronic-tinged sound to its max. I hesitate in saying this, but I think the bass is distorted. Anyway, the guitars that ride on this low end are reminiscent of The Benjamin Gate at times, and Say From Charms (if they went on a power trip) at others. This means that they can blast riffs like a cannon but are highly capable of a melodic, note-intensive structure on top of it. The two guitars do this quite often, alternating between the chugging and the delicate picking. The short but packed opener “Mid-July” is a prime example of their vocals: high, but not punkishly high vocals sung to a haunting melody that fits like a puzzle piece. It works beautifully. Sadly, they do have moments (even a whole song: “Transmission to the Stars”) where they apply the negatives of that last phrase: whiny, high vocals turning out a bland melody that doesn’t fit with the overall song. They use piano occasionally, just like everyone else these days, and while it isn’t bad, it doesn’t really contribute much either. They also can mellow out, and (in contrast to the last element) it’s not bad. In fact, it’s pretty good.  Their closer “The Masquerade” blends this mellow, laidback feel with the rock base, creating a track that’s better than most on the album. It still can’t hold a candle to “Mid-July”, but it’s good.

Altogether, this CD is a good length. It’s just long enough that their style is presented, fleshed out, and enjoyed without getting repetitive. Unfortunately, I do see a high amount of opportunities for this to become repetitive. It will be interesting to see how they navigate a full-length release. But for now, this CD is great, and it gives “The Phoenix Rising” a bad name. And that’s because this CD doesn’t rise out of your player for a long time. It’s not so much because of the melodies (which stick in your head a little), but because of the innovative guitar work, which will draw you back again and again and again.

Read: www.thephoenixrising.net

Listen: www.mp3.com/thephoenixrising

Buy: www.thephoenixrising.net

The techno breakdown in Bristol Park’s “Get Out”

Best Element: The techno breakdown in Bristol Park’s “Get Out”.
Genre: Pop-punk
Label: Radioboy Records www.radioboyrecords.com
Website: www.minutestoofar.com, www.bristolparkmusic.com

This split (humorously titled “Aging in Oklahoma”) has two pop-punk bands on it: Minutes Too Far and Bristol Park. Despite being in the same genre, they are easily discernable from each other, as Minutes Too Far has a much slicker production style, which leads to a more radio-friendly, anthemic style than Bristol Park. Bristol Park plays pop-punk with an artistic bent; they throw a techno breakdown in “Get Out”, as well as a piano elegy on the end of “Anah”. They also have a more raw sound than MTF; MTF draws comparisons to FM Static where BP draws comparisons to Brand New (“Your Favorite Weapon” era).

Minutes Too Far features three very enjoyable songs, but unfortunately there’s nothing too innovative in them. They’re a tight band instrumentally, as nothing is off at all; they’re just not as creative as Bristol Park turns out to be. “There’s No I in New Jersey” is MTF’s best offering, as mildly gritty guitars bounce around in a frenetic style. The chorus is excellent, as it features some well-placed back-up vocals and a great melody.

Bristol Park’s three songs are immediately endearing; you hear them once, and you want to hear them again. “Alleyways” features hyperkinetic vocals and the haunting line “So, you’re leaving?” as its main hooks, and they work very well. “Get Out” is their best offering here, as it has aforementioned techno breakdown and some very cool guitar work. “Anah” is a song that delights in off beats and tempo changes; it keeps the listener permanently on edge, and it’s extremely interesting.

Both bands are great here. Minutes Too Far’s conservative style is well-written and well-played, but Bristol Park’s innovative take on pop-punk is surprising and much more pleasing.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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