August 18, 2009

Seek Shelter immediately

Instrumental bands have emerged with increasing frequency during the last decade, the most recent evolutions no doubt spurred by the commercial success of Texas’ Explosions in the Sky. Though their recognition on a larger scale was certainly welcome, it led to the inevitable unintended consequence: quantity far exceeding quality (and, in the majority of cases, originality).

Shelter Red, a dynamic duo from Portland, lacks neither. Stephan Hawkes – one of the more inventive musical minds I’ve ever come across – and bassist Austin Crook have been devastating the Pacific Northwest for the better part of six years. In February, they followed up 2007’s independent full-length Masters of the Universe with a seven-song EP debut for Salt Lake City’s Sound Vs Silence. Aptly named, Strike a Mortal Terror not only rattles the instrumental realm to its core, but redefines it in a mere 32 minutes. Terrifying indeed.


August 16, 2009

Beginning with the Ends

For this blog’s inaugural post, I present a somewhat outdated review of an album from the band Lovedrug. While they hold a place in my musical ethos I would consider meaningful, they’ve since become less so to the perfunctory masses (as illustrated by their most recent disc, which I will critique at a future date).

I don’t plan on providing regular commentary on releases – unless absolutely warranted – because my analytical acumen is less than acute. Instead, this site will serve as an outlet for information, opinions, and postulations concerning the vast landscape that constitutes “indie rock” — a genre I can assure Ryan Lenssen is definitely not deceased.

 

Everything Starts Where It Ends – Lovedrug

(Militia Group, 2007)

Three years is an eternity in the music world. It must have certainly felt that long for fans of Lovedrug, who were kept in a constant state of handwringing for the Ohio alt-rockers’ follow-up to 2004’s Pretend You’re Alive. The band finally quelled the torturous anticipation in March 2007, releasing Everything Starts Where It Ends, a collection of songs that will undoubtedly leave the faithful pondering whether the wait was really worth it.

The most disappointing aspect of this record isn’t what it is. It’s what it isn’t: principally, the drug everyone fell in love with. In a clearly definitive effort to mainstream¬†Lovedrug’s sound, frontman Michael Shepard has mostly abandoned the unconventional facets of the debut CD, opting instead for bombastic power ballads and heavily over-produced pop tunes, all the while trying to retain some semblance of an unmistakable identity he seems inexplicably intent on destroying.

To his credit, Shepard and his cohorts find moderate success, though not nearly enough to compensate for a dimebag of deficiencies. “Pushing the Shine” should shine, but rather pushes the envelope with incompatible indulgences. Ex-drummer Matthew Putman is never given license to freely wield his weapons, relegating him to a click-track whipping boy and leaving unwitting victims “American Swimming Lesson” and “Bleed Together”, despite their gregarious ferocity, to fend for themselves. “Happy Apple Poison” suffices as a solid opener, but almost none of the proceeding tracks achieve comparative grandiose stature. The lone exception is “Casino Clouds”, which offers a perfect blend of brashness and sincerity.

Perhaps most unnerving are the predominantly piano-driven numbers. Whereas those of Pretend You’re Alive added distinct, indelible texture, their counterparts here bring the album to a complete standstill. “Salt of the Earth”, a chilling, brooding sonata, would have provided the provocative finale the plodding title track woefully fails to deliver. When “Everything Starts Where It Ends” does eventually end, it’s hard to remember where (or why) everything even started.

I once believed this group had the potential to rescue a degenerating music universe desperately crying out for a savior. I fear it’s now going to take a considerable amount of time for them to resurrect that belief. I just pray it doesn’t take another three years.


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