Posts Tagged ‘pop punk’

Album Review- Eve 6, “Eve 6”

November 8, 2009

Eve 6's self-titled record

Today, I tackle my first Review by Request. A bud of mine that I had been in a band with and still talk music with from time to time offered Eve 6 for an interesting review. He said of this album, “‘Inside Out’ was a huge radio and MTV hit, but few know of the rest of the album, which is incredible, both musically and lyrically, thanks to simple song construction, catchy riffs, and brilliant word play.” There’s nothing that delights me more than helping shed some light on a band or album who may have a reputation based on a hit single, showing that the band has more merits to stand upon.

Eve 6 is typically pigeonholed as a “pop punk” or “alternative rock” group. Looking at their Last FM page, it appears they are similar (either in musicality or fanbase) to Everclear, Stroke 9, Third Eye Blind, Lit, Fastball, Better than Ezra, and The Verve Pipe. Wow, this is certainly unfamiliar territory for me. I can honestly say the only song by ANY of these bands that I know is Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy,” thanks to hours of Rock Band 2 with my girlfriend. I’m looking forward to engaging myself with music of a different variety than what I’m accustomed to. Perhaps I could even find a new favorite? On to the review of their self-titled record from 1998!

“How Much Longer” is an energetic track that launches into my eardrums with punch and tenacity. Upon first impression this is definately pop-punk rock, but a few characteristics help the group (and song) stand out. I love frontman Max Collins’ voice. The riffs are are indeed catchy, and the word play is indeed brilliant. I enjoy the lyrics, especially “A stone has blocked my hourglass/No progress made no time’s run out.” The basslines warble along and drive the rhythm. It’s a nice song.

The second track is one of Eve 6’s biggest hits, “Inside Out.” I like “How Much Longer” more, however this isn’t a bad track. I can tell already that this is one of those bands whose biggest hit isn’t their best song by far. The lyrics are surprisingly strong for the genre, most of this type of music suffers from overly simple and direct lyrics. Max Collins sounds like he’s really trying to say something, and I can tell by his voice that the lyrics are genuine. One thing to keep in mind when listening to this album is that the band was VERY young when they recorded this album; late teens, and very early twenties. For such a young and raw group to make a mature slant on pop punk is incredible.

The album slows up a bit when I get to “Leech.” This is my favorite track yet. The lyrics attack a liar and a showoff whose stories are false and shallow. The obvious strong point to the group is their lyrical ability. When I listen to just the music, it could just as easily be any of a litany of bands that came out between 1998 and 2004. However, Collins’ voice and the strikingly deep lyrics set the group apart from the pack, making for a nice surprise.

“Showerhead” is an unspectacular song. It blends too much into the rest of the songs, and the lyrics aren’t as strong before. There’s really not alot to say about it, it’s not bad but it doesn’t catch my ear at all.

I am a sucker for open road songs, so it’s only appropriate that I take to enjoying “Open Road Song.” Anyone who loves to go for a long drive while blasting their favorite music can certainly dig this tune. The guitar solo features some of the best music on the record yet and Max Collins’ voice dazzles some more. Eve 6 makes fun music and makes no bones about it, so I can’t knock this album for being pretentious at all… yet the lyrical work keeps the whole thing from being TOO poppish.

Max Collins of Eve 6

“Jesus Nitelite” has a different tone than the rest of the album. It’s more laid back, it’s not as “riffy.” The lyrics seem a little too faux-genuine and are disposable. I like the sound of the music but this is the first time I’ve had a negative reaction to the actual songwriting and singing. This song, along with “Showerhead,” are “skip” songs. Again, this isn’t a bad song, it just misses the mark.

I dig “Superhero Girl.” Almost every man has been in this position; where they’ve desperately longed for a seductive and teasing beauty who always manages to be right out of reach. The song captures the essence of this mood perfectly. Who hasn’t met one of these girls that you’ve cancelled plans and jumped through hoops just to see, and had her haunt your dreams and memories? This tune is a brilliantly understated snapshot of that situation.

My major knock against this album is how it all blends together, but in the wrong way. Much of the time the music isn’t exactly challenging, complex, different, or unusual. That’s to be expected in pop rock music, and I’ve spoiled myself on Dream Theater and Rush for the better part of this decade, so I may be a bit harsh. But in “Tongue Tied”  hoppy riffs and predictable choruses reign.

“Saturday Night” is a decent song. More lyrics that are noticeably deep for the genre, and more up-tempo riffs. The guitar work is different from most of the other songs, with what seems like a blues slide pattern as well as funky palm-muted wicka-wicka riffing. The drum work is decent too. Imagine that… they get better musically right after I critique the instrumental work! Who would’ve thought?

It appears that guitarist Jon Siebels saves his better work for the last part of the album, as the riff in “There’s A Face” is yet again a little different from the song before. A little variety in the music is present and it helps boost the album’s score.

“Small Town Trap” closes out the album, with what seems to be the best music the band has put on this record yet. Being a small-town guy, naturally I relate to the sentiment and find myself laughing at a few of the lines; primarily because they sound like parts of my life! Many artists (see: Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Mellencamp, etc.) have seemingly overdone the “let’s break out of this backwater burg” type of song, and I was afraid of this song trying too hard to be like them at first, but it stands on its own feet and offers a different slant. Good song, one of the best on the record and a positive ending to Eve 6.

Eve 6 was a decent foray into the pop-punk movement that was prevalent in the 90s and early 00s. While not a groundbreaking or absolutely brilliant piece of work, it was enjoyable and certainly had a few merits. Max Collins is underappreciated as a lyricist; I truly enjoyed listening to and reading the words on this record. I wasn’t as much of a fan of the actual music though, it was a bit repetitive at times and not overly interesting. That worked for the vibe of the album and complemented Collins’ songwriting style and therefore isn’t a crippling drawback.

Alright album, surprisingly good lyrics and no shortage of fun punky riffs, not very hard to get into but not a lot of reason to listen to frequently. There’s better stuff out there, but it’s worth a few listens and some appreciation.

FINAL GRADE: C (Average)

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Concert Review: Taking Back Sunday, Anberlin, fun, Gavin Castleton

October 28, 2009

(Venue: LC Pavilion, Columbus, Ohio.)

Taking Back Sunday, Anberlin, fun, Gavin Castleton

10-23-09

I recently started a new job. That means, much to my delight, I can take up my old hobby of going to concerts once more. I was pleased to discover that one of my new favorite bands, Anberlin, would be coming to Columbus. I had seen them once before a few months ago in Cincinnati, but my girlfriend and I didn’t truly get to enjoy the show due to illness and a less-than-friendly crowd around us. Anberlin had put on a great show the last time around, so I wanted to come back for more. Hopefully this time I could take in the music with minimal disturbance.

A songwriter named Gavin Castleton opened the show with a brief set. His voice was decent enough and he proved to be a more-than-adequate keyboardist. Some of his material seemed a bit “different,” so to speak, especially considering one song was a “zombie murder love story.” He was entertaining, especially considering his talented drummer and the fact that two members of Taking Back Sunday sat in on his set. Most of Castleton’s set had a very Coldplayish vibe, with guitars taking on more of a “texture” than a lead, and with keyboards in the forefront of the mix. The highlight of Castleton’s performance was the second song, which was an insane six-minute funk-rock breakdown. The song was groovy, infectious, and featured all the “wikka wikka” guitar funk-rock enthusiasts desire.

A Gavin Castleton album.

The second band lived up to their name, “fun.” The band, come to find out, is an offshoot of The Format, who I hadn’t listened to much before beyond a few songs. I hadn’t listened to them at all before this show, but now I intend on picking up their album eventually and I would see them again without hesitation. fun’s music was a delightful blend of country, folk, blues-rock, rockabilly, punk, and pop. Three members of the band contributed vocals, making for delightful interweaving parts and thick, robust harmonies. The vocal harmonies weren’t unlike something that Alabama, The Eagles, The Beach Boys, or The Beatles would sing; and they were definitely a highlight of the show. Every musician in the band was very flexible and capable, the lyrics were thoughtful yet not overly heavy, and the frontman performed with a ton of energy. The frontman (his name escapes me at the moment) had the swagger of Mick Jagger, the working-class image of Bruce Springsteen or John Mellencamp, the vocal range of Steve Perry, and the punkish edge of Paul Westerberg. He sold the music with impeccible delivery and a great sense of humor. I also enjoyed a random trumpet solo during a song that made me immediately recall Neutral Milk Hotel. I can’t wait to hear more from fun.

fun's Debut Album.

Now it was time for Anberlin to take the stage… and take the stage they did. There’s a laundry list of reasons why I love this band, and they were all displayed during this performance. Fiery emotion, check. High energy, check. Soaring melodic vocals, check. Tight instrumental composition and devastating riffs, check. Vocalist Stephen Christian is by far one of the greatest young frontmen in any rock scene today. He commands the stage with a gripping presence, with his voice and movement grabbing everyone and refusing to let go. He’s definitely molded in the form of many great vocalists past, especially late Boston singer Brad Delp. The instrumentalists, especially guitarist Joe Milligan and drummer Nathan Young, were technically sound and delivered crisp brilliance in their play.

From “Paper Thin Hymn” to “Godspeed,” from “The Resistance” to “Feel Good Drag,” Anberlin chugged through their more well-known songs. It’s too bad the group had a shorter set, as they have four albums worth of high-quality material and and have the talent and following to headline a tour on their own. However, Anberlin had enough room to experiment a little bit. The yearning “Disappear” included extended synthesizer breaks, and speaking of synth, the set’s penultimate song was a very surprising, and overly epic New Order cover. I can’t tell you what the song was, though I wish I knew, because what I witnessed was a pseudo-prog rock face-melting synth-punk throwdown. With the way the synth and bass were pounding, and with Christian’s soaring vocals, I felt like I was at a Muse show for a few minutes. The cover was a great choice, it had people dancing and clapping, and it showed a little bit more of what Anberlin’s capable of.

I know this is just supposed to be a concert review, but I’d like to take time to state that Anberlin is a band that most fans of any kind of rock music should definitely check out. Some people claim they’re a punk band… yet they pay great tribute to AOR with precise composition and catchy hooks. Others yet say Anberlin are Christian rock… but I didn’t hear the word “Jesus” once in the entire performance. They’re definitely a band that’s hard to categorize, and that’s a great attribute, as they certainly have a broad appeal. I highly recommend to anyone reading this, to go out and buy Anberlin’s newest album New Surrender, or at least its best songs: “The Resistance,” “Breaking,” “Feel Good Drag,” “Disappear,” “Burn Out Brighter (Northern Lights),” “Breathe,” “Younglife,” and “Haight Street.”

Anberlin's "New Surrender"

Stephen Christian of Anberlin.

All good things must come to an end, and Anberlin left the stage to give way for the show’s headliner, Taking Back Sunday. I’ve never been very big into most of the groups that fall under the “emo” or “pop-punk” genre (for the record, I hate using genres to describe music, but it’s the best way to communicate to most people that have genre driven into their skull), so needless to say I haven’t listened to very much Taking Back Sunday. I’ve checked out some of their studio material, and while it’s good for what it is, it’s nothing I would buy or collect for myself.

Being the headliner, Taking Back Sunday had over an hour and a half to perform. They had no shortage of material, and packed their set with hit after hit. I expected a lot of songs similar to something right between Fall Out Boy and Jimmy Eat World, but I was surprised to hear a few songs get very heavy. I found myself thrashing my head as if I were at a Metallica show once every now and then. The band aren’t slouches at all when it comes to throwing down meaty riffs and aggressive rhythms.

There was plenty of room for improvement. Too many of Taking Back Sunday’s songs sounded “samey.” There wasn’t enough variety in the material to keep me interested. The guys were set to overdrive the whole time, and although that’s not a bad thing and it’s part of the music they make, I found myself yearning for something just a little bit different. Then again, I’m used to Porcupine Tree and Rush shows, so it’s hard for me to make myself appreciate something a little less experimental.

Massive props go out to Taking Back Sunday’s vocalist Adam Lazzara. The dude clearly believed in his music, and threw every mic-swinging trick this side of Roger Daltrey out in an attempt to energize the crowd; and it worked seamlessly. Taking Back Sunday will likely never enter the Rock Hall of Fame, win over critics, or pen an album on par with Born to Run or Abbey Road. That said, they certainly perform with a robust edge, and have fun doing it. The fans get just what they wanted and needed, and even though I’m not a fan, I thoroughly enjoyed their show and wouldn’t object to seeing them again. I wouldn’t go out of my way for them though, and do believe Anberlin should headline and hope that they will in the future.

Thanks for reading my first concert review on this blog.. hopefully there will be more concert trips made very soon, more music discovered, and more memories made.

Adam Lazzara, Taking Back Sunday's energetic frontman