Shane D. Hall
Having been listening to this CD for the past few months, non-stop, I am going t
Having been listening to this CD for the past few months, non-stop, I am going to offer you a review. You are really going to want to cop this album, it's amazing.
1. Psychic Vampires - The first song on the record opens with an ominous diminished chord backdrop, washed in the noisy technical geekery that you will come to expect from the Ellis Ashbrook boys over the course of the subsequent nine songs. I'm pretty sure this song is primarily about the effects of television, but I could be making something ambiguous too specific. "Open up my chakras, and I'm gone..." That's the deal. This song introduces you to the positive negativity that will dominate the content for the rest of the album.
2. Ethiopia - This is my favourite song on the record. Lyrically, the song is an exploration into white guilt, fairly directly. I enjoy how it criticizes inwardly as well as outward, but the highlight here is the FUCKING GROOVE. Holy shit. Taking a page out of the King Crimson handbook, they make this one groovy while keeping it dissonant, even stopping into a RIDICULOUSLY pensive stutter-step in the second verse that fits PERFECTLY with the lyrics. The minimalistically bluesy guitar riff highlights the groove perfectly. The rhythm section and the vocals are the highlight of this piece.
3. They Say - "I need myself right now, more than I never needed anything before..." Here you start hearing how absolutely diverse the range of influences this band has actually is. The reggae-influenced bridge is easily one of the most haunting and memorable parts of the record. The harmonies are particularly successful in this song, as they make the chorus sound HUGE. Content-wise, this song seems to try call towards a sense of self.
4. By Fingertips - The closest thing to the typical "ballad" you'll find on this record, this song reminds me of Radiohead in a big way. Please keep in mind that I don't listen to a lot of music. Ha. The real highlight of this song is the content, in my opinion...the harmonies and the structure are beautiful, and the added noises at the trail end of the verses will stick with you for a while. I think we all feel like we're hanging on by our fingertips sometimes...and I can't front, lately when I feel like crying, but holding a little tighter before I slip - this is the song I play.
5. Headsteer - This song is so good that I don't like it. I have no idea why, but it's the only song on the record that I can't get into. However, with that said, it is fantastic. The glistening guitars at the beginning set a haunting tone for the droning melody. I've heard it said live that this song is about driving drunk, and if it is, then it definitely achieves that sort of aesthetic at the beginning with its combination of droning, yet frantic, sounds. The drums on this track stand out a lot, as the drummer covers a LOT of ground, texturally speaking.
6. Absolute Value - This is the first song I ever heard by Ellis Ashbrook off their MySpace page. This song calls into question the notion of value, and how to attribute value to something, and to recognize when nothing has as much value as everything. At least that's what I get from it. This song sounds like what would happen if you snuck into a Phish concert, and swapped out all the "friendly" hallucinogens such as mushrooms and acid for PCP and crack. While the music is melodic (check out the arpeggios before the second time the chorus happens) and beautiful, the chorus culminates in a paranoid "PEOPLE, EVERYWHERE!" and eventually fizzles out into a completely bizarre back-beat based jam that seems to fall apart just as it comes together.
If that description doesn't make you want to listen, check out these lyrics:
"I'm John and I'm talking to John, amazing letter, feta cheese oblongata - fuck your dogmatic sunblock. Increasing omnipotent sirens perpetuating mindless, mindless!"
7. Good Time Blues - This is my second favourite. The groove owns this song, in particular, the bass lays down something so funky I can smell it from outer space (on my frequent visits to Mars). Holy funking shit. This crescendos to YET ANOTHER fantastic chorus (the chorus is something these boys are very good at) that almost begs you to give way to your worst impulse. The illest bass note EVER can be heard right before the second verse starts back up. Simple, poignant, and ugly - it shows you how the main character feels in the mere fraction of a second it appears. A good time? By who's standards? This is a fucking masterpiece of rock music.
8. Dig Thru - This is a seemingly Tool-inspired, highly technical piece that has you walking funny during the verses. It sounds like the whole song is going to fall over with disinterest at the end of the first verse, and all of a sudden you hear a flurry of aggression with multiple chord voicings from the wall of guitars lending to a melodically chaotic sonic background that eventually builds into a Psychic Vampire-esque guitar romp until you're beaten back into coherence by the rhythm section. This is the heaviest and most technical song on the record, and while it seems like departure it sits very well with the rest of the material on the record.
9. Way - The rhythm guitar stands out here, coming in to add texture behind the ample harmonies. Again with this song we see the marriage of the dissonant and the melodic in a way that conveys the sort of contemporary uncertainty that I believe is trying to be conveyed. It won't always be this way, I promise. All of you. I'll give you a hug if you need it, and punch you if you'd rather I do that. This song comes off very well live.
10. So the Shaking Keeps you Awake? - I don't remember who it was, but some writer much better than myself once said that your writing should be a window into who you are. Maybe Orwell. I don't remember. Check out the first verse of this song:
"I'm making you cold/So that I can feel more comfortable/I'm rewriting all the words/Just to make this all acceptable"
This kind of intellectual honesty with one's self is what is missing in most popular music today, and very often when independent artists put their hearts on their sleeve it STILL doesn't work because they either just suck or they're cherry-picking what they show you. Fortunately, the lyricists responsible for the lyrics on this record suffer from neither of those maladies. This being the last song on the album was a perfect choice, and you can tell after listening to the record in it's original order that a good deal of attention was paid to the order of the songs. This record definitely benefits greatly from that decision, and the final track brings us to where we expect to be sonically, while wondering how the fuck we got there.