Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Big Sleep - Sleep Forever

I missed seeing The Big Sleep when they were opening for Minus The Bear in early 2008, but for some reason I'm not really regretting it, because I feel like their live show would probably play out very similarly to how their second album, Sleep Forever does. A few opening tracks of shreddage, followed by quiter stuff, and ending not with a bang as much as an "eh."

I don't really know what it is about this album, but it just doesn't even seem like the band is totally interested in what they're doing. Most of the songs here are instrumental, which means it might fall under the blanket term of "post-rock." At the same time though, some of these instrumentals probably would have benefited from vocals. My other main gripe is kind of weird, and it's the lugubrious tempo that every song seems to follow. The band obviously has some great guitar tones, so why do they find it necessary to just plod through every song? I could see them sounding a bit more Fucking Am-ish if they sped things up a little bit, but dirty enough to retain their own sound.

The two previously mentioned problems I have with this album make it a pretty fucking frustrating listen, and at times, the band's name and album title almost come too close for comfort when it comes to stuff I'm listening to.

For a band that makes most of their songs instrumental, it's almost funny that the most memorable moments of this album come from the songs that feature vocals. It's not even that the vocals are that spectacular, it's just that the band actually seems like they give a shit at these moments. Take "Bad Blood." There are riffs for days in this song, and although the vocals make it a little hard to focus on the guitars, it's good to at least see The Big Sleep a little more invigorated.

But for every good song like that, there's one like "Organs," which seems like nothing more that studio tomfoolery gone wild. Like, "oh hey, here's this organ..woah that sounds kind of cool. Let's record an entire track based around like one or two riffs on this thing. Shit!" It's just filler, that's all.

Usually I can forgive a band if they at least seem like they're giving it their all (see my Sinaloa review), but I just can't get behind a group who seems almost, well, asleep during their album.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Anniversary - Devil On Our Side: B-Sides And Rarities

School is out for summer, my internship is over, and I'm unemployed until I get back to Ohio, and even then, probably until June. What better thing to do than review stuff then?

This right here is a two disc compilation of B-sides and rarities from The Anniversary (obviously, if you read the title). For those who never listened, the closest comparison I can think of when thinking about this band's first album would be Motion City Soundtrack, except a few years older. However, while The Anniversary's first album was a complete sugar rush of keyboard infused pop-punk awesomeness, they made a complete left turn on their second album, the classic rock indebted Your Majesty. It was a turn I didn't get when it first came out, and it's one I still do not get to this day. In the end, I think Motion City Soundtrack has had a better overall track record than The Anniversary.

However, this does not diminish how important of an album Designing A Nervous Breakdown was to me. I picked it up when I was in 9th grade, and became immediately attached to it. I first heard the band through one of those Vagrant Records Another Year On The Streets compilations (incidentally, the first place I ever heard Rocket From The Crypt!), and man, I thought I was on to some really underground shit once I tracked down their album. I kept that album like a secret, only showing it to a few people. Which is why Your Majesty was such a slap in the face to me- as it showcased a band abandoning everything they were really haphazardly.

As for this collection, it's a bit like a see-saw in terms of my relationship with The Anniversary. The songs that sound more like Designing are fucking great, and it's interesting to hear some of those songs in rougher, demo form. However, some of the other stuff on here is just head-scratchingly bad. I remember right before they broke up, in a couple issues of Alternative Press, that they had been working on some new EPs, one of which was supposed to contain "campfire songs" and the other would contain more reggae oriented tracks. Well, some of those songs are on this collection, and the idea of The Anniversary playing reggae is JUST as bad as you think it is. Please, skip the song "Che" every time you listen to this. I think I found myself actually shaking my head a few times during the duration of Disc 2, which compiles most of the Your Majesty era rarities.

Oh, and who thought it would be a good idea to put those two live tracks on there of Josh Berwanger talking between songs? Especially when they aren't the most endearing ones, it really just kind of makes him come off as as huge of a prick people were perceiving him as during the Your Majesty days.

Anyway, this was good for the sake of digging up some Designing-era B-sides, but at the same time a little disheartening to basically chronicle the way I feel this band managed to shoot itself in both feet stylistically.

They still have a MySpace, by the way: