Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Sprockets create quality record for fans of the "in between"

January 6, 2010

Las Vegas based alternative pop/rock group Sprockets give their listener an intense, solid experience on their latest album, Medicated Empty.  I would say they fall into the category of “well-groomed Warped-Tour esq.” bands.  The 13-track album exudes creative writing and well-rounded musicianship.  While some may call them pop/rock, don’t be misled into thinking they are another lovestruck boy rock band.  Their sound is much darker, and the content is at times quite heavy.

The album starts out with title track, “Medicated Empty.”  Singer and lead guitarist Brodie Knight Vans says in a statement that the song was inspired after the “nowhere” feeling he experienced from medication after surgeries.  With lyrics like “Medicate your thoughts with substance that rots away the memory/Instead of pain I’d rather feel empty,” the song goes from mellow, gentle guitar to powerful alternative rock.  The pacing of the song reminds me of the old Brand New days.

Two of my least favorites are “Safety Nets and Fastened Windows” and “New Years Day.”  The only reasoning behind this is that the first has vocals that hint at the dirty rock sound of commercial rock bands like Hinder.  On the second, I just can’t get past the lyrics “f*cking in the parking lots/taking shots of everclear/celebrating the new year.”  This song just screams “young, male angst,” unlike much of the rest of the album, which has a broad and emotional appeal.  However, I am not discounting the catchy beat, which can surely rally a crowd at a show.

The album ends strongly with “Flood Lights” and “The Sound of Existence.”  Both songs exemplify the pop-punk genre perfectly, with the latter showing reminiscence to Rufio and much more pop-like than other songs on Medicated Empty.  Overall, fans of the “in-between genre” will enjoy this record.  By “in-between” I mean not quite hardcore and not quite pop-punk.

There is nothing particularly unique or unusual about the band’s overall sound, but credit should be given when credit is due: it’s solid.   There is definite influence from the band’s producer/engineer Mike Herrera.  Does his name sound familiar? Yep, he was also the founder and lead vocalist of MXPX.

Autoexciter doesn't exactly excite

October 30, 2009

After nearly five years since their last full-length album, 2009 plays host to a new album from the band Skychief. Based out of Akron, Ohio, Skychief is the kind of band you would expect to discover at Warped Tour.  The new album Autoexciter is a testament to this with 13 tracks of hard punk rock.  Of the 13 tracks, 75% of the sound is generic.  While the songs are not necessarily bad, the majority of them won’t leave a memorable tune in your ear.

After nearly a decade of playing together, the four members of Skychief have created an album that shows influence from bands such as Kiss and Smashing Pumpkins.  Also noted is the resemblance to the earlier days of Blink 182 on tracks like “Desire.” Although lacking some of the clean and developed sound of Blink, Skychief has two vocalists that play off each other well on the tracks.  However, the vocals focus more on the “scream-singing” style and suffer from occasional pitch issues.

An interesting addition to the album is the song, “Naughty is Nice.” The song begins by channeling classic rock vocals that exude a more mature sound than the garage punk vocals of tracks like “10 Hours.”  The last minute of the song goes into a short speech set to a rock instrumental, and it actually works for them.  Following up on the inventiveness of this song could be the key to help Skychief break away from common rock clichés in the future.

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

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