Thursday, March 10, 2011

98 The Hard Way: EPs, Day 9

Jeromes Dream / Amalgamation: Split 7" (Ricecontrol)
Ah, the first blast of Jeromes Dream material. Even if the stuff here doesn't come close to what they'd do on their later stuff it's kind of amazing how fully formed their sound is this early on. They've got that heavy yet undistorted guitar tone, complex structures that actually make sense in terms of progression (though not as fully realized as the stuff on Seeing Means More Than Safety) and of course, Jeff Smith's unique vocal delivery. It's rare to hear a band's first release come with a sound this well executed and really just in need of a small degree of polish to get to the top of its game as it were, so that alone makes this release stand out even without the second side. However, Amalgamation aren't going to go down without a fight it seems. The two tracks they offer up are light years ahead of the material from their earlier release, this being especially obvious on the re-recording of "As I Slip Into Roles" which does everything right that the first take struggled with and then adds more color to the margins to makes the song really come alive. Forbes Graham's trumpet is well integrated to the overall sound, Jacob Long's vocals are stronger and the band sound like the two years between  releases was just what they needed to gel together properly. All told there's a consistency across the two sides, sonically and in terms of quality that gives it a much better overall feel than a lot of split releases I've come across. [8.4/10]

Download link courtesy of Today and Tomorrow.

The Yummy Fur: Male Shadow at Three O'Clock (Vesuvius)
Think about it in the abstract: this is Interpol with a wry, sardonic sense of humor. This is Franz Ferdinand with a bigger debt to Wire. This is about 4 years too early to make any sort of non-cult impact. Now think about it more specifically: this is a band that doesn't give a fuck. They've got their sound, they play their songs, they sprinkle in a good dose of catholic-bashing and sexual humor, they don't do anything to go beyond that. This is the sound of a band that knows that it's audience is what it is, knows what they want and won't hesitate to give it to them without much fanfare. Their sound is also directly in my wheelhouse, arty punk with a modicum of guitar interplay and production values. So where does that leave it in the grand scheme of things? Well it's sort of the baseline for what I'd consider to be a good album of this style. There's nothing here that you can't find done better somewhere else, but in and of itself there's nothing wrong with it at all. It doesn't need to be better, but I kind of wish it was regardless. [7.0/10]

Reversal of Man: Revolution Summer (Independence Day)
It's a bit telling that the song that stands out the most here is the briefest. That's not necessarily a knock against the other six tracks here, but "Get the Kid With the Sideburns" is easily the most potent of the bursts of rage and frustration presented here perhaps because it's so direct and unadorned. Sure, "Hollowbody" is easily more realized on a musical level - that guitar breakdown mid song coupled with the quick muttered vocals is as stellar a moment as RoM have in their canon - and the whole first side is an ideal progression from the band's earliest material, but all it takes to make those seem a bit lacking is a 45 second screed against Earth Crisis and Victory Records. Maybe it's that it's a direct attack as opposed to the other songs which deal more in concepts, but it feels so much more purposeful for having a specific target. Regardless, as I said earlier, this is a logical and positive progression for RoM, further tightening their fusion of first generation screamo and more straight ahead hardcore. It als sounds much more like Orchid than Orchid did at this point - the second part of "The Set Up" especially calls to mind the breakdown from "Destination Blood" - though a bit rawer and more freewheeling. Essentially, if it's not a blueprint for second generation screamo it's as close to one as I've come across while also being fairly high quality throughout. [8.3/10]

Download link and image courtesy of Conserva tu memoria.

Modest Mouse: Never Ending Math Equation (Sub Pop)
Think of this as The Lonesome Crowded West distilled from a double LP to a single 7". "Never Ending Math Equation" sums up the more aggressive parts, never quite reaching the maniacal apex of "Doin' the Cockroach" but handily demonstrating what sort of racket they can get up to without going too far. Of course by distilling it down to a relatively scant 3 and a half minutes they sacrifice giving it much build up; the coda is good on its own, but feels unearned to some extent because it's only perfunctorily foreshadowed. It does, however, feature another example of how turntable scratching can add to rock music without feeling like a gimmick, so credit where it's due for that.

That leaves "Workin' on Leavin' the Livin'" to sum up the calmer moments of the album then, and it succeeds at that goal without any caveats. I'd even venture so far as to say that it's better than most of the slower songs on West, if only because of the hypnotic, lolling quality that the band imbue the track with from the get go. something about the combination of the subtle, siren-aping guitar in the background combined with the open chords and Jeremiah Green's expert drumming - always the factor that takes MM to that other level so many "indie" bands want to reach - makes the nearly 7 minute run time pass like a blink of the eye. Add in the interpolation of the lady in the radiator song from Eraserhead and the chiming guitar riff that punctuates each chord progression and you've got one of their better songs, bar none. And that's not even factoring in the last part of the song, where it seems to be slowing itself down without ever actually relenting - Green again, gotta love that guy - before a random, somewhat dissonant riff pops up for a few bars and then fades out. Seriously, every time I listen to it I hear something new to love about it, and that's the mark of a great song if ever there was one. [9.0/10]

Download link and image courtesy of Blewharvest.

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