Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Courage Riley-All That’s Left

September 1, 2005

courageriley

Band Name: Courage Riley

Album Name: All That’s Left[/u}

Best element: Brilliant songwriting.
Genre: Indie Rock/emo

Website: www.geocities.com/courageriley

Label name: –
Band e-mail: courageriley@yahoo.com

Let me preface this review by saying this: Courage Riley is broken up. The band has moved on to other musical pursuits, with some members playing in the Astro Magnetics artist Baumer and others in a band named The Daylight Hours. It is safe to say that none of the ‘current projects’ will have the same magnificent chemistry, thorough emotional punch, and all-around strength that Courage Riley did- because Courage Riley was, hands down, one of the top ten independent bands I have ever had the pleasure of discovering. Probably even top five.

Why, you may ask? For this simple reason: Courage Riley conveyed emotion brilliantly. Their songs are so well-written that when you listen to songs like “Ashes” or “Captains of Industry”, you can hear the sentiments behind the song: the passion, the yearning, the dissatisfaction. Every piece of the sound plays a part in putting forth the message- not just the guitars, and not just the vocals. Every piece was vital to Courage Riley- and that’s why they conveyed emotion better than anyone.

But they didn’t start out that way. All That’s Left is a complete discography, and it’s a very interesting listen to forge all the way through this disc in one sitting. The first four tracks of the disc are from their self-titled EP- and while they bear all the hallmark C+R traits, the songs are not spectacular by any means. The best track is the opener “Mexico”, which introduces us to the uniquely memorable voice of David Adedokun, their jangly-but-still-rocking guitar sound, and their spot-on mood shifts and complexities- all of which show up all throughout this discography. Even though these songs are more complex than your average rock band’s, the self-titled EP is not anywhere close to the skill with which they would possess later.

A split is next, and while it only has two songs from this era of C+R, these two songs are the most rocking songs on the entire album. Both “Spring Hill Assembly” and “Captains of Industry” are dark, low, and fast-paced- creating a tense, dense sound that flows very easily. The vocals here start to experiment more, as “Captains of Industry” features a group-yell part, a gripping spoken word section, and one of the first wordless soaring vocal lines that would come to be yet another harbinger of their sound. The epic “Captains of Industry” is one of their best songs on the entire album, as the frustration of the subject matter flows through the guitar and bass lines with perfect clarity.

Their only full-length release is next on the album, and while it is a big jump in their sound’s maturity, it’s not the final destination. The first sound heard on opening track “You’ll Always Remember” is a piano- which is something entirely new for C+R. The piano defines the full-length (re)Defining the Relationship, as it adds an entire new layer of depth to C+R’s already full sound. It’s not even used very much throughout the album, but the fact that there is piano is a sign that they’ve become more melody-centric and less rock-centric. Songs like “Letters to Write”, “Praise Be”, and “The Loudest” are first truly beautiful songs that secondly culminate in majestic, rapturous sections of rock- combining their innate senses of melody with their emotional connections in a way that’s truly entrancing. The drums play a large part in directing the sound in this album, which is a new improvement for them as well.

By this time, C+R is a indie-rock machine, churning out 5-7 minute epics that just drop listeners’ jaws. Their wild, churning sound is truly incredible- and yet the best song on this album is the closer “As Snow”: a mellow, beautiful song that strips away all of the noise and puts forth pure, untainted melody.

But their best output is the three unreleased tracks that close out the album- a sort of posthumous EP. All of the best aspects of Courage Riley are realized- innate sense of melody, beautiful mellow sections, rocking out, soaring vocals, interwoven instrumental lines, and an earnestness to pull it all off. All three of the final tracks are epics in their own right, with the highlight being the closer “Ashes”: a long, enveloping track that closes with the repeated vocal line “Ashes to ashes, dawn to dusk!” while the band pummels away and a second vocal line soars. It’s a self-eulogy- an amazingly powerful self-eulogy.

Courage Riley is emotion. All of these songs convey an emotion so powerful that it had to escape. They did it better than everyone else does, and while it’s depressing to see them go out on top, it’s better than seeing them become a shadow of what they once were. You can still get a copy of this album, and if you’re into epic indie-rock, like Wilco or Radiohead or Modest Mouse or any of that- Courage Riley is the one that got away.

-Stephen Carradini

independentclauses@hotmail.com

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

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