I’ve spent a lot of time and thought on what Independent Clauses should be. It’s gone through many iterations, and I’ve been realizing over the past two months that it’s about to go through another. I’ve always wanted to be the first line of defense for young bands: I’ll review your album if you have zero press, bad spelling and a 3-song demo. If it’s great, it’s great. If it’s not, I’ll tell you what I thought and hopefully you don’t think I’m a jerk. That’s been SOP for IC since day one.
But back in the day, I thought I could do that for every genre. That’s just entirely unfeasible. I can’t be knowledgeable at every style of music. I may like a couple hardcore and metal bands, but I have no idea what makes them good other than the fact that I enjoy it. Even if I heard a great unsigned metal band, I would have little idea how to describe it (and even less clue about RIYLs), because I don’t know the ins and outs of metal.
This is true for me of rap, metal, hardcore, modern rock/post-grunge, blues and jazz. I like a bit of each (K’Naan, Isis, Dillinger Escape Plan, Traindodge, The Flavor and John Coltrane, for starters), but I just feel unqualified to review it. So I’m pretty much going to stop reviewing those genres and focus in on folk, alt-country, indie-pop, indie-rock and post-rock. I’m taking a break from punk so that I can love it again in the near future.
The reason I bring this up is that The Boxing Lesson falls on the outskirts of my knowledge, just on this side of the border. I don’t listen to much psychedelic music, partially because I’ve never had the desire to be high. I say “much” because The Flaming Lips are Oklahoma’s rock heroes, and I listen to their music almost de facto.
The Boxing Lesson has the space-rock/psych thing going on its Muerta EP. “Darker Side of the Moog” features synths galore in a sweeping, atmospheric way. The song transforms into a slow-moving but cohesive bit of pop-influenced songwriting; it’s not exactly go-for-the-hook songcraft, but the melodies are recognizable to those who love a v/c/v setup (me). “Muerta” and “Cassiopeia” are much the same, calling up some Pink Floyd references in their expansive, slow-moving folds.
Closer “Drone to Sleep” is most like a pop song, in that fuzzed out guitar strum and a dominant vocal melody carry the song. It’s still got the synths and spaced-out vibe; its woozy self will definitely still to the core demographic of psych-heads. But people who enjoy meandering pop and folk will find much to love in the track. It really does make me want to go to sleep as the sound washes over me, in a Spiritualized sort of way. It’s kind of like Jonsi, honestly – and that’s really cool. It’s easily my favorite track on the EP.
So, I’m not the best guy to be evaluating The Boxing Lesson, and I’m not too proud to admit it. But it does have some elements that can be appreciated by all — and that’s the mark of great songwriting.
Traindodge had one of the earliest slots at the Norman Music Festival, and the opening slot at the Red Room venue. Having reviewed their album On a Lake of Dead Trees at the very beginning of Independent Clauses, I was interested to see what Traindodge had morphed into over the six years since I had heard them.
The guys in Traindodge are an older lot, which surprised me somewhat when they set up their drums/bass/guitar set-up. The Traindodge I knew was heavy…really heavy. They dispelled any uneasiness I may have had when they tore into their first song. Their brand of rock is heavy on dissonance and yelled vocals, but it also features intricate drumming patterns, digital beats, keyboards, and synthesizer backing. These never drop them into kitschy range, though; much like the Appleseed Cast, they use the more melodic elements of their sound as droning backdrops, stabbing asides, and gritty atmosphere.
Their sound was energizing and somewhat mesmerizing; the keys and beats sucked me in, while the guitars, drums and bass pummeled their way in afterwards. These guys can write a rock song, that is for sure.
Another interesting aspect of Traindodge is the fact that they have reached past the point of pretension. They have been doing this for so long that they don’t have to put on a show to make themselves feel comfortable. They could have played to a thousand or half a dozen people (there were about 50 people there, perhaps, by the end), and they would have performed exactly the same. They were having fun, and the fact that they were truly interested and excited in what they were doing for the sake of what they were doing made their set great.
They have a new album coming out at the beginning of June; I would recommend picking it up. Highly recommended for fans of Appleseed Cast, Life and Times, Dredg, Muse, etc.
Band Name: Traindodge
Album Name: Torch EP + 2
Best Element: The instrumental breaks
Genre: Ambient/hard rock/I don’t know
Label Name: The Torch EP was released by No Karma Records but the band is signed to Ascetic Records.
Band E-mail: email@example.com
This band has one of the oddest sounds I have ever heard- period. They sound like what I imagine would happen if The Felix Culpa and Futher Seems Forever got on the same stage and performed at the same time with Tim McIlrath of Rise Against doing all the vocals. Yes. it would be odd, and probably give more than a few people seizures, but it certainly would be interesting. And just like that show, there is no question that his album is interesting.
The album is a “lost EP” from 2000 with the addition of two unreleased songs. This gives the first 4 songs from the original EP a slightly different feel from the other two songs because of the changes in style that occurred between the birth of the two un-released songs and the recording of the original EP. Though the style does change, it is interesting to hear how the band grew.
My favorite song on the EP is the 11 minute, completely instrumental “Cactus Flag”. This track is 11 minutes of flowing music that allows you to think and contemplate life and love and anything you want to.
The album is a great record to sit back and soak in; the vocals are rough but are used sparingly and allow for the music to take over.
Best Element: The lyrics here are thought-provoking.
Genre: Grungy Hardcore
Label: ascetic records www.asceticrecords.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.