Friday, July 25, 2008

(CD Review Edition)


"Nothing vs. Everything", the third release from Arizona rockers Captain Squeegee is, quite possibly, one of the best releases Arizona has seen in some time. The album leaves nothing unsaid, no empty corners unfilled, and no ears unsatisfied. The band, continuing on their quest to break any boundaries that come by being classified into a specific genre, have crafted the perfect antidote to the mediocre, unimaginative poison that fills half of the current music scene.

The album contains two halves: the "light side" (tracks 1-6) and the "dark side" (tracks 7-12). Leading off for the Light Side is the energetic instrumental track appropriately titled "The Execution", flowing perfectly into the sarcastically rocking track, "Laughability". The next track we encounter along our experience is "Liplock", a poignant song written about a relationship gone wrong ("Forced to liplock, I've got no defense/Against the unbearable truth that our story ends"). Next, we find possibly the catchiest track on the album in "Gimme a Break". The instantly memorable chorus begs you to sing along at the top of your lungs, while the "la da da"s get you dancing in your seat faster than you can say "Gimme a break!". Slowing things down (while adding meter changes and a considerable amount of dissonance) is "Shovel". Complete with recorded shoveling in time, this track is a prime example of the new and improved Captain Squeegee. Finishing off side one of this dualistic record is the incredibly upbeat and optimistic track "By the Light".

Now that we have become encompassed in this journey through the album, we find ourselves at the crossroads of light and dark, about to embark on a much more somber path. Starting off with the appropriately titled "Dip Into the Dark", preparing us for the remainder of the record ("So dip into the dark with me/I'll show you how to sing while your heart is crumblin'/Get afraid and down with me/Together we can laugh as the tracks start rumblin'"). The next track is the piercing track "Real Father", followed by the near majestic sound of the gloomy "Just a Reminder". Next, we find "The Puzzle", a wonderful declaration to those blinded by the lies of society ("How does it feel, you are safe from the trouble/While the work of their hands turns to rubble/How does it feel, you are strapped in the muzzle/Pulling tight 'til what's right is just muffled/How does it feel, you are stuck in the bubble/While they're dumped in a grave that you shoveled/How does it feel you're a piece of the puzzle now?"). Finishing off the album we find "Somethin'", followed by "The Plan", which has been described by singer Danny Torgersen as "possibly our darkest work ever". The track only builds upon itself from start to finish, and is as good a finish to any record that you'll find.

Instantly jumping to the number one spot on my list of "current favorites", Captain Squeegee's new album "Nothing vs. Everything" looks as if it's staying there for awhile. If you have heard anything from this record (whether it be via MySpace or a friend), you will have already found out that the album is worth purchasing...what's the delay?


I'm here to give you a first hand look into the head of Danny Torgersen, the brains behind the Arizona band Captain Squeegee (ex-"and the Soap Suds" on to find out more) and mastermind behind their new release "Nothing vs. Everything". Enjoy.

TP: Thanks for letting me come talk to you, man. First off, what happened to the Soap Suds?

DT: We removed it. It was, uh, assimilated back into…nothing.

TP: Any reason behind that?

DT: Yeah. It’s like, when I looked at the sticker for our last CD and it said “Captain Squeegee and the Soap Suds / Behind the Metal and Metric Pace”, it was like, Jesus Christ, this is almost a full paragraph. (Laughs) And this time around, it’s like, and I just…putting in the Soap Suds just makes it so much more goofy. So, I just wanted to axe it. You’ll actually see, I’m working on it right now…I’m making the Soap Suds into something else.

TP: Oh really? Can you give any hints onto what that’ll be?

DT: Well…you’ll probably be a part of it (laughs).

TP: That sounds so…mysterious.

DT: Exactly! I’m all about a good mystery. I’m just giving you small snippets of my idea for now.

TP: Right on. So, for the recording of your new album, “Nothing vs. Everything”, I’ve heard it had some major setbacks. What were they and how did they influence the record?

DT: Well, the main setback was that we decided to go on tour while we were recording it, so…(laughs). But I was actually glad we did that because there was still some music that I knew we could work out. Music that I wanted to work on in the van, where they couldn’t escape my grasp (laughs). I don’t know, there weren’t that many setbacks, like, big ones, it’s just that it always takes way longer than you think it will to make a CD. Especially, you know, because we had so many instruments to record. ‘Cause like, I even wanted to do more with the album, but…there just wasn’t time. It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t elaborate in the way I wanted (laughs).

TP: Yeah (laughs). You’ve said that the first half of the CD is kind of like the “light side” and the second half the “dark side”. What inspired this sort of concept?

DT: Well, that’s kind of how everything is. It’s just duality, ying and yang, positive and negative, and how like, the idea of how it relates to the ying and yang idea, or even quantum physics. You know, light matter and dark matter, it’s always like that. It’s like, they both need to be there so that you can compare, because that’s the only way they exist, you know? Like, you can’t be positive without the negative because then you’d just be neutral, and that’s never fun. And it’s like, you just return, it’s a big cycle. It’s almost like you get sad on purpose so you can appreciate how happy you can be.

TP: Agreed. Now, for the recording process, what song took the longest to record?

DT: Hm…I’m going to have to say “Wired to Delete”, I mean, “Just a Reminder”…sorry, (laughs), it’s just that we all call it that. I just didn’t want to call it that [on the CD], just because it was too…weak.

TP: Why did it take so long to record?

DT: We actually had a lot of technical difficulties while recording it, like that keyboard beat at the end of it. We had a few different takes, and we finally went with the last one, but it was definitely a group effort. I made Austen do most of it, he was like the percussionist, ‘cause he’s so good with that kind of stuff. So, I let him use the keyboards to his will. So, that took awhile, and we also kept losing data…mysteriously. Yeah, it just took us a long time to finish it.

TP: I can understand that. So, what song, lyrically, means the most to you? Like, which is the most personal to you?

DT: Hm…probably…I’ve never actually thought about this before. It’s like choosing children, you can’t really just pick one. Probably, lyrically, I really like “Just a Reminder”.

TP: Would it be too much to ask why?

DT: It was kind of inspired by my grandmother. I grew up with her and my mother, and my grandma had dementia. It was really bad, like, ever since I had known her, she was just crazy…all the time. She didn’t even remember that her husband was dead sometimes, so I had to kind of tell her. So, that’s what the second verse is about.

TP: Wow, I’d have had no idea.

DT: Yeah.

TP: Well, how often do you guys practice? And for how long?

DT: We primarily try to practice three days a week, though, we have a new space which is open 24 hours, so I would love to lobby for more practicing. And it’s a 3 hour…experience (laughs). But I don’t know how much of that is music and how much is, I don’t know, talking about the music or jerking around or…getting drunk (laughs).

TP: (Laughs) So, I was looking through the CD booklet, and it says that all the music was written and arranged by you. How much artistic input do the other members have?

DT: Well, I kind of just give them the parts…it’s really just more like arranging. I don’t know, I don’t really write it out all the time, we’ll usually just kind of work on it together. I just come to them with a part in mind, and the idea is that they’ll just screw around with it after. Like, I try really hard to try and encourage people to change things, ‘cause I like to see what happens.

TP: So, it’s kind of like you give it off to someone else and they bring it back completely different, but it still rocks?

DT: Yeah, that’s what I want. Dude, that’d be amazing, it’d blow my mind, ‘cause it was mine once, you know?

TP: Kind of like your brainchild, so to speak.

DT: Right! Like, I envision it in my mind a certain way, they go off with it, then it comes back as this totally different, evolved, more awesome version.

TP: Right on. So, on the CD, it doesn’t sound like the horns, guitars and such are layered entirely too much. Is that because you want the album to sound more like a live performance, or what?

DT: Yeah. I only wanted to produce things if it was a creative endeavor. Like, I understand that with a lot of producing, you can make an album sound amazing, even if the music isn’t that great.

TP: That’s how it is with about half of the bands out there now.

DT: Exactly. And so, I did want to do a lot of production, but I wanted it to only be things that added to the music, not just something that sugar coated it. And, I don’t know, some of my favorite albums don’t sound produced almost at all. Like, there are some awesome Cake albums and some older alternative rock that don’t sound produced at all, that just rock.

TP: Totally. As a fellow writer, I know that most artists have their own way of writing songs, so what’s the way that you go about writing or structuring the things you write?

DT: Usually what happens is that something happens to me, and I think, “I should write a song about that”, you know? Try to consume the negative energy that’s being shot at me and try to regurgitate it as something positive. So, usually something bad has to happen, I mean, that’s a catharsis, and then I’ll make it into a song. I try to make the music sound like whatever it is I’m writing the song about. That’s why my music almost sounds thematic a lot of the time, it’s because each song relates back to the point of the song.

TP: Gotcha.

DT: Oh, sorry, but I just realized…getting back to what we were talking about earlier about getting the music to the band…especially Mat. ‘Cause I don’t play drums, everything else I can figure out and play slowly enough so they can play it faster and better, but I don’t play drums at all, so he helps out the most. I mean, I try to mimic what I think it should sound like with my mouth, but obviously that takes a really skilled interpreter.

TP: Definitely. So, are you guys set financially? I mean, I’ll look up on stage and see some great gear, so I was wondering if you guys are pretty set or if it’s more of a “I’m going to invest almost everything I’ve got in this band” type thing.

DT: Yeah, that one…the second one (laughs). We don’t really have as much money as you’d think.

TP: Ain’t that the truth (laughs). If you had to pick one song on the new CD for someone who’s never heard Captain Squeegee, which would it be and why?

DT: Um…I think I would want people to hear “Laughability”, just because if you hear that song first and then hear the rest of it, that song is kind of like a comment on all the rest of the songs. That’s why the CD plays like it does, like, “Laughability” is the solution out of all the variables. And what’s weird is that it’s not necessarily the main idea of the rest of the CD, it’s kind of just what comes out of the rest of it.

TP: I understand. So, what, to you, is the function of being in a rock and roll band? The lifestyle? The ability to make a statement? The chance at becoming the next big thing?

DT: The function? Like, mathematically? Like, if I were to make a function of my life and it made a graph, it would be kind of like the Chaos Theory. It’s pretty smooth at first, but then after time, it just kind of spirals out of control, until you just have a “blah” and you can’t discern if the line is going up or down. It’s kind of like that. But, there’s the side that you’re trying to just make music for people who are kind of in this counter culture, and I mean, there’s a lot of partying involved, but that’s not what’s important. It’s always about the music, so that’s why you’ve got to balance yourself out.

TP: So after all is said and done, it just boils down to the music?

DT: Exactly.

Photo Credits: Janet Zhou (

Friday, December 28, 2007


The year of 2007 is nearing an end, and it's about time that I (and nearly every other music writer) choose their "top tens": top ten favorite albums, top ten favorite songs, top ten bands (that may or may not have had a release in 2007), etc. Well, I'm here to choose my top ten favorite albums and the top ten biggest disappointments.



1. Motion City Soundtrack, Even If It Kills Me

This album found its way into the number one spot with relative ease. As a follow up to 2005's breakout album Commit This to Memory, I was a bit nervous for the new release. I kept thinking to myself, "It'll be'll be good..." for weeks, but until I finally heard the finished product, I still remained in that state of tension. The album was finally made available for full listen on MySpace prior to release, and I could finally rest easy. The two singles that had been available for weeks prior to release were good, but it was nice to hear that the rest of the album was just as great. Even If It Kills Me is solid release and a must have for any Motion City Soundtrack fan (or any fan of music in general, for that matter).


2. Jimmy Eat World, Chase This Light

I think I can speak for the entire Jimmy Eat World fanbase when I say: about time. The most recent release prior to this was Futures in 2004, and come summer 2007, everyone was ready for whatever Jimmy Eat World was taking so long to record. I also think I can speak for the entire Jimmy Eat World fanbase when I say this: whew. In years past, one thing that I've noticed is that when a band takes a long time to record an album, it either ends up being one of two things: utterly great, or completely forgettable. Thank goodness it was the first of those options this time.


3. Foo Fighters, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters have been around for about as long as I can remember liking music...and probably even before that. The band has won numerous Grammy Awards, an MTV Music Video Award, and has had their hit singles almost worn out on local radio stations everywhere. Why would I be so cliché to put such a huge band on my top ten? Simply put, this albums rocks. From the first moments of the very Foo-sounding single ("The Pretender") until the last notes struck on the piano laden "Home", this album packs everything from rock to folk into one cohesive sound.


4. Relient K, Five Score and Seven Years Ago

In a similar situation as Motion City Soundtrack, Relient K's 2007 release was a follow up to a breakout album, and also like Motion City Soundtrack, these boys from Canton, Ohio put all their chips on the table and it paid off. The album, ranging from quite possibly the feel-good anthem of the year ("Must Have Done Something Right") to the story-telling nature of "Deathbed", seems to fill every hole and find every missing link that plagues so many releases of today. A very good album and definitely a very good addition to any musical collection.


5. Thrice, The Alchemy Index: Vol. I & II

Thrice, one of my longtime favorite bands of the post-hardcore genre, tried something new for their most recent releases. They decided to record 4 EP's (each with 6 songs) to capture each of the four elements in a musical form. When I heard this release, I was intrigued. I wasn't sure what Fire or Water would sound like, musically...but after hearing the album, I now have a better understanding. With Vol. III & IV (Earth and Wind) still on the way, Fire and Water have set the stage very well for the upcoming release, and I recommend this album to anyone.


6. Cartel, Cartel

This Georgia based pop-punk quintet made Alternative Press's list of "Bands You Need to Know" in 2005 (thanks to success of their debut LP, Chroma), won Yahoo! Music's "Who's Next" competition in March 2006 and was also named a Breaker Artist by AOL music. Needless to say, the expectations were high for the band (in regards to their 2007 release). As part of the US version of "Band in a Bubble", Cartel went into a studio with 23 24-hour video cameras showing the general public the progress of the album every step of the way. When the album was finished, the band was to perform the album, in its entirety, on a live stage. The musicianship and heart put into this album, even while under great scrutiny (especially under great scrutiny) makes this album one of my top ten albums of the year.


7. The Used, Lies for the Liars

The third album for the Salt Lake City area "screamo" act The Used, Lies for the Liars experiments with a new sound (a full horn section appearing on a few tracks). Any time a band decides to change up their sound, even in the slightest bit, it's always a gamble, and this time, it paid off. The sound was a fresh one for The Used, and a much needed boost for the band. The album took the longest to record of any of The Used's releases (it took 6 months), and was received with mixed reviews. Though the album itself may have gotten 2 stars on one review and 4 on another, the album still packed enough punch to make it onto my list.


8. Paramore, Riot!

If you've been following the top ten picks by notable musicians on MySpace, you'll notice one thing: Paramore must have done something really well, earning a spot on multiple lists. Well, I'm here to tell you this: that notion is completely true. Riot! is packed with intensity (best characterized by songs such as "For a Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic" or "Misery Business"), but also slows it down a bit with songs such as "When it Rains" and "We Are Broken". The variety found in this album, as well as the musicianship and stellar vocals from frontwoman Hayley Williams make this album one to remember.


9. Sherwood, A Different Light

The breakout album for California's premier "feel-good dance rock" quintet came in the form of the 2007 release A Different Light. No, I'm not talking about the quintessentially 80's Bangles' album. I'm talking about a strictly pop record, full of catchy hooks and utterly danceable beats. From the first listen, you will fall in love with this record. I mean, seriously, what's not to love about a band that specializes in "feel-good dance rock"? The album is a solid release, and I look forward to what's in store for this band.


10. Dear and the Headlights, Small Steps, Heavy Hooves

I'm not entirely sure how I came to hear about Dear and the Headlights, but no matter how I stumbled across this album, I'm thankful it happened. Emerging as one of the more promising indie rockers of the year, Small Steps, Heavy Hooves features a heavily acoustic drive as well as an appeal to lyric lovers everywhere. Highlighted by lead singer Ian Metzger's wonderfully howling vocals, this Phoenix based band is onto something big...and Small Steps, Heavy Hooves is just the start of it. Keep an eye on these guys.


In order, I have listed out the top ten disappointments of 2007. Whether their previous album was just too good to top, their sound change left all of us wondering what exactly they were trying to accomplish, or the hype preceding the album was about the best thing about it, these albums failed to captivate me. Yes, there are some great songs featured on these albums, but as a whole, the album just failed to impress.

1. Rilo Kiley, Under the Blacklight
2. Straylight Run, The Needles The Space
3. Kanye West, Graduation
4. Mae, Singularity
5. Jay-Z, American Gangster
6. The Ataris, Welcome the Night
7. Angels & Airwaves, I-Empire
8. The Academy Is..., Santi
9. Daphne Loves Derby, Good Night, Witness Light
10. Radiohead, In Rainbows

Friday, December 7, 2007


So, there's something I've been meaning to do for a while...and what better a day to do it than today? Filled with sporadic showers and overcasting clouds, my car stereo was flooded with songs to fit the mood. I have always been drawn to that "rainy day" type of music. I'm not quite sure what it is about it that makes me want to be driving in the rain for hours on end when I hear a certain song, but nonetheless, it's how I feel. I have gone through my music library (27.16 gigs...yikes) and selected 10 songs that I feel fit the mood for the day. Maybe these aren't your ideal rainy day picks...but these are mine, and I'll share them with you anyway.

1. "And We All Become Like Smoke", The Ataris (Welcome the Night, 2007)

This song is one of many atmopsheric, rainy day songs (one of which is appropriately titled "A Soundtrack for this Rainy Morning") from The Ataris' most recent release, Welcome the Night. This song, featuring swelling guitars, minor chord progressions (the chorus sounding a bit more major, yet still maintaining the minor feel to it) and distant, reverb filled guitar hooks, will make you feel just what the title implies...if you let it.

2. "Limousine", Brand New (The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me, 2006)

A song from a band that has previously found its way into an earlier post, "Limousine" capitalizes on crescendos/decrescendos, guitar effects, and screechingly poignant lyrics from frontman Jesse Lacey ("I love you so much/Do me a favor, baby, don't reply/'Cause I can dish it out/But I can't take it"). After the first five and a half minutes, the song finally launches into the hauntingly explosive guitar break we all knew was coming and sets the perfect mood for driving around in that cloudy, rainy weather.

3. "The Conversation", Motion City Soundtrack (Even If It Kills Me, 2007)

One of the only piano laden songs on the record, "The Conversation" tells a lyrical story as the emotional, heartfelt melodies get us wrapped even more into it. Reminiscent of 2005's "Hold Me Down", we find Justin Pierre once again crafting a song so wonderfully realistic, making the listener think, "Whoa, I totally understand." With lines such as "I had a pocket full of dreams/But I gave them all to you/Now I think I want them back/So can you tell me if I'm crazy or confused?/Don't ever change the way you are/I've never loved anyone more" finishing off the tune, we're left with a feeling of hope, albeit a lost hope, but nonetheless, a fitting atmosphere for such weather.

4. "My Time in Exile", Third Eye Blind (Blue, 1999)

From the first notes struck on the distant, distorted piano sounds to the soft, clean tone of the guitar entering in late in the song, this song never ceases to amaze me. Though the song isn't as dramatic as such tracks as "Limousine" or as ethereal as "And We All Become Smoke", the song is so well put together, musically and lyrically, that it almost doesn't matter. Lyrically, the song starts in one spot (a reminiscent standpoint of a relationship), progresses to the present (describing the routine nature of current events), and finishes off with the hopeful lines of "That's my year spent in exile/Second guessed and dressed up in tatters/My both feet didn't take this path/And I'm still looking for a life that matters".

5. "Open Water", Thrice (The Alchemy Index, Vol. II: Water, 2007)

"Open Water" is a brilliant tune about the treacheries of the open sea...but it's much more than that. With lines "I'm starting to believe the ocean's much like you/'Cause it gives/And it takes away" dominating the chorus, we quickly find that all the metaphors of the ocean ("The open water chills me to my bones/But it's the only place that I feel alive") are only subtle hints to a single person. With the verses being haunted by muted piano loops and minor chord progressions, a single guitar enters in halfway through and builds, like a wave about to crash on the shore, until the hopeful major sound of the chorus is finally upon us. Though this song seems like an obvious choice for this mix (Open Water? Come on...), it couldn't have been more fitting.

6. "Night Drive", Jimmy Eat World (Futures, 2004)

A song filled with innuendos, passionate lyrics, swelling verses, and an outro filled with wonderful instrumentation practically screams rainy weather. "Night Drive", from 2004's Futures, wasn't one of my favorite Jimmy Eat World tracks right off the bat. The song, featuring risqué lines ("Kiss me with your cherry lipstick/Never wash you off my face/Hit me, I can take your cheap shots/Leave you with the love we made") and an almost hopeful bridge, filled with "na na"s and major chords, never quite hit home with me...until recently. No, it wasn't just because of the weather. Actually, I started listening to the song on repeat about five or six days prior to hearing it was going to rain...the timing was great. This song has become one of my recent favorites, and has gotten more plays because of this weekend's meteorological conditions.

7. "Currents", Dashboard Confessional (Dusk and Summer, 2006)

The song starts off with distant synthesized sounds, sweeping chords, and immediate dissonances...and from the first :30 of this song, you know it's going to be good. I'm not quite sure exactly what it is about frontman/lyricist (everything, basically) Chris Carrabba's writing that makes me want to go write, but there is just a cohesiveness about his words that Lines such as "The air is visceral around us/Turning in its simple steps on slow currents/And I watch as it pirouettes and spins/In slow motion/A long drag becomes a slow dance/In a halo of ember" highlight this heartfelt tune, and with help from the vocal harmonies and instrumentation push it ahead of other songs and onto the list.

8. "The Sun and the Moon", Mae (The Everglow, 2005)

Mae, widely known for their use of piano in many songs, released this sentimental tune on 2005's The Everglow. The lyrics seemingly paint a masterpiece on an already brilliantly crafted musical canvas ("And it was just like the sun/But more like the moon/A light that can reach it all/So now I'm branded for taking the fall/So when you say forever/Can't you see?/You've already captured me"). The music, showcasing the musical talent of all five members, ranges from piano to synthesizer and strings to crashing cymbals all within a semi-lengthy seven minutes...but by the end, you'll wonder how it passed so quickly.

9. "How's it Going to End?", Daphne Loves Derby (Good Night, Witness Light, 2007)

Daphne Loves Derby, originally gaining a large fanbase for their acoustic, emotional tunes, let us all know with this song that they are more than just a second-rate emo band. The song, though starting off with a solo acoustic guitar, doesn't stay that way for long. After no time at all, we find the song filled with jingle bells, drums, vibes, strings...the list could go on. As experimental as the quartet's sound went on this song, I still feel that the music and the lyrics share a connection stronger than most may recognize. The semi-spacey feel of the music and the lyrics ("I spread my wings and flew over a blurring sea/The sun kissed the moon and the sky fell into the deep/I fell asleep/I've felt myself sink and crash into the sea/All I could do was sleep, for now/Sleep for now") seem to fit together like two pieces of a newly cut puzzle, and the airy feel of the tune makes it perfect for this list.

10. "Home", Foo Fighters (Echoes, Silence, Patience, Grace, 2007)

"Home", the album closer for the 2007 release of Grammy-winning act the Foo Fighters, leaves the listener feeling exactly the way Dave Grohl intended them to feel: at home. The first time I listened to this song, I instantly fell in love with it. I'm a sucker for a slow song, and the mellow feel of the piano, strings, and light drums seemed to speak to me. Over this past Thanksgiving break (don't worry...this has a point), I spent a lot of time listening to music, this album being one of the ones repeated fairly often. The break was spent at a cabin in the mountains of northern Idaho, and this song fit the mood of the weekend perfectly. As I sat on my bed, wrapped in a blanket, and looked out the loft window at the snowfall, I felt at home. Though the song came alive to me while watching the snow, I felt that it was appropriate for this list. After all, rain is still precipitation.

And there you have it: my current top 10 rainy day tunes. Feel free to steal this playlist, make a mix CD with these songs, add to it, anything. Rainy weather (especially for us here in Arizona) is just too good to be spent without good music.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


The time has finally come to talk about quite possibly my favorite ska/progressive/rock/reggae/jazz/whatever you want to call it band...the RX Bandits. Starting off as a full fledged ska band in 1997 in Seal Beach, California, one might think the metamorphosis the band has taken was unexpected...but it wasn't. The band was always too independent to be signed to a major label, to be cast into the genre that everyone wanted to hear. Some of the early hints were found in songs such as "What If", "Gun In Your Hand", and "Lost", found on their sophomore release, Halfway Between Here and There. These songs marked a new feel for the RX Bandits, straying from the straight upstroke feel of most ska songs and embarking on a different plane, touching on more political subjects than the typical "guy loses the girl" lyric.

On their third release, Progress, the band furthered their evolution and strayed even further from the ska mold they had been cast into. The lyrics had become more and more focused on political issues ("How can we change the paradigm of social caste/When the victims are the same ones who slave for the corporations?/This episode's resolving and we can change it/A revolution's calling and I'd like to think that I'm not alone/Are we all alone in this?", "VCG III") and racial issues ("You're all one race, the human race/Just a different smile for a different face", "In All Rwanda's Glory"), and the sound constantly changing, using more non-conventional chords and beginning to use mixed time signatures. The band was definitely on a new level, and their success began to mount as they continued to make the music they wanted to make.

Their 2003 release, The Resignation, was the first album blatantly focused on politics (and the lack of approval for such) for the band. This album, even from the beginning stages, was different: the band only allowed themselves a certain number of takes for each song, and after each take, it was left as was, with no add ins. This truly shows the musicianship of each member of the band, especially with the experimentation with unconventional time signatures becoming more and more apparent. The release, which was received fairly well by the public, peaking at #148 on the Billboard 200, is highlighted by (but not limited to) tracks such as "Overcome (The Recapitulation)", "Taking Chase as the Serpent Slithers", and "Decrescendo". (The album, from front to back, is just about one of the most solid releases of recent times, and though I could go on for hours about why each track is equally amazing, I'll save you the time and let you listen for yourself.) With the success of The Resignation, the band found more time for side projects (The Sound of Animals Fighting, Apotheke, Technology).

The band's most recent release, ...And the Battle Begun (a direct reference to Lord Byron's poetry), was originally planned to be released in 2005 with record label Drive-Thru Records, but reasons which were left unknown, the band parted ways with the label (despite the fact that there was still one album left in their contract), which caused a delay in the release of the album. After sorting things out with Drive-Thru, the album was released on MDB Records (label of lead singer Matthew Embree) online on June 24th, 2006. The release featured even more complex time signatures and still maintained the lyrical content of their previous release. The song "A Mouth Full of Hollow Threats" features an interpretation of the famous Jimi Hendrix quote "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world shall know peace" ("You, Mr. Elation, with all your perfect plans for peace/Until the power of love can exceed the love of power/You know it can never, never be"). The album is highlighted by tracks such as "In Her Drawer", a powerful tune related to prescription drug use, "One Million Miles an Hour, Fast Asleep", a dissonant, upbeat song which slows down to the soul filled finale that features thought provoking lyrics ("They say the old woman got the wisdom, cause she couldn't read a clock anymore/She said the numbers don't represent the moments/And she don't see what all that ticking's for/'They selling you time with repeat stimuli right in front of your eyes till you feel paralyzed/You're the only one who can define real'/Tell me right now how you really feel"), and the incredibly rocking song "Crushing Destroyer" (oh, how fitting a title). Just four days after the release of the album (June 28th), saxophonist/backup vocalist Steve Borth announced that he was leaving the band in order to pursue his side project, Satori.

The final aspect to be discussed of this intensity filled group is their live set. The RX Bandits thrive on playing live, and have become well known for putting on both physically and musically explosive shows, boasting dominance over almost any band of today. The RX Bandits is a band you will want to follow closely, as each release seems to build on the power and genius of the previous release...and if this trend continues, I want to be there for each future release.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

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For those of you who know me fairly well, you have seen this coming since the inception of this music blog. Relient K has been one of my favorite bands for a long while. Though I tried to push them away, I eventually couldn't resist (especially when the album The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek was burned for me as a Christmas present...with no writing on the disc...those clever girls). With the Christmas season nearing each and every day, my thoughts reflect to the CD copied for me so long ago (as well as the wonderfully executed Christmas album Let It Snow, Baby...Let It Reindeer).

Relient K, an alternative/pop punk band out of Canton, Ohio, has been one of the bands that, through my constant shift in musical taste (see last post), always seems to find their way into my speakers. The band has been categorized into the Christian Rock genre by many critics; however, many fans have questioned whether or not that classification fit the band. To this, lead singer Matthew Thiessen stated in an interview:

"Our whole answer is, call us whatever you want. You can call us a Christian band, you can call us a rock and roll band. And we can go out on tour with this band, and we can go out on tour with that band. But we don't care. We're just doing what we do. We're having fun. We write about what we want to write about and, you know, most of the time, that's, you know, our hearts and our faith."

I'd like to follow the same idea given to us by Mr. Thiessen doesn't matter if you're Buddhist, Christian, or Palestinian, one thing (and perhaps the most important thing) still remains constant: this band knows how to write music...and write it well. If you're in the mood for a slow, acoustic driven song about throwing all cares away and seeking something you love, they've got it ("Getting Into You"). Say you feel like listening to an upbeat, catchy tune to put on a mix CD for that special someone...they've got that too ("Must Have Done Something Right"). Let's venture for a minute: maybe you're in the mood for an 11 minute, wisdom filled reflection through a life that has come and gone...yep, they've written that too ("Deathbed").

In addition to the brilliantly crafted melodies, Relient K also has a one-up on the competition: their lyrics. From the dramatically hopeful lines found in "Life After Death and Taxes (Failure II)" ("And this is how I choose to live/As if I'm jumping off a cliff/Knowing that you'll save me") to the tongue in cheek lyrics found in songs such as "Sadie Hawkins Dance" ("Sadie Hawkins Dance, in my khaki pants/There's nothing better/(Oh, oh, oh!)/Girls asking guys, it's always a surprise/There's nothing better/Baby, do you like my sweater?") In other words, no matter your mood, Relient K has (brilliantly) written a tune to fit your exact emotion. If, somehow, this band has gone overlooked, I urge you to give this feel good quartet another won't regret it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

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The first time I heard Third Eye Blind, I was in the 5th grade. It was one of my 8th grade friends' favorite bands, so he let me listen to the band's debut album (Third Eye Blind)...and I wasn't ready for it. The lyrics were too far above my head to understand, the music was far from what I was used to (which wasn't much at all, let me tell you), and I just didn't get into them. Though I didn't like them as a musically naïve 11 year old, that experience opened the door for my current musical taste. After hearing them, I was a bit intrigued. I don't know what it was, but I wanted to hear more music. The way my friend loved that band made me want to find a band where I'd know every word to every song. That moment came in 7th grade in the form of fellow 90's alternative rock band Eve 6. After toting the album to school in my CD player (a CD player?!) nearly every day until the album was almost too scratched to play smoothly, I decided it was time to branch out. I then remembered Third Eye Blind, the band I only gave one shot back in 5th grade.

After giving them another shot, I found that I could better relate to the lyrics, and my musical taste had evolved to the point where it fit into the genre of music I most enjoyed. "Semi-Charmed Life" very quickly became one of my favorite songs. I may not have known all the words to the quickly sung verses, but boy, did I know that chorus...and I made sure people knew. A friend of mine had by then purchased the 1999 release, Blue, and burned me a copy of the album. The radio-friendly single, "Never Let You Go", made it onto a mix tape (wow...I haven't even thought about one of those in years) of songs recorded from the radio. That tape was quickly worn out.

High school then came, and so did a shift of my taste in music. My freshman year of high school was filled with metal (Slipknot, Disturbed), and a pair of headphones that never left my neck. For my sophomore year, I started to stray from the angry heavy metal scene and turn to the ska/punk scene, where bands like Sugarcult, The Ataris, and Less Than Jake began to become more prevalent in my listening schedule. By junior year, I was into the pop rock/pop punk scene, with bands such as The Format, Yellowcard, and longtime favorite Jimmy Eat World were among the most listened to. It wasn't until my senior year (or just after) that I rediscovered the Third Eye Blind CD burned for me so many years I gave it a shot. I was quickly reminded as to why this band was one of my early favorites. Songs like "Slow Motion", a slow, piano filled tune about drug use, and "Blinded", a song full of gratitude and love (lines such as "I wanted to thank you for a vision that was lost that you returned/But you're past where you understand" and "So when I see you/Despite all that we've become/Still I'm blinded" highlighting the song) found their way into my iTunes library and racked up the play counts. Call it perfect timing, call it luck, call it what you will...but Third Eye Blind will always remain one of my favorite bands.