Opener [EP] (2004)
Album Score: 8
About four years ago, someone had contacted me to review this six-track EP. Like a complete tool, I complied! If I was a tool back then, what does it say about me that I’m going back and re-listening to it? ... I'm probably insane! When I listened to it back then, I wasn’t impressed with it. I thought it started out well, but then it faltered after the third track. I was new to the genre, however, and so maybe I was just being naive about the whole thing. ...Nope. I should trust my past instincts more! I’m listening to it now, and I think the exact same thing.
However, one thing I got completely wrong in my original review was my assessment of the lead singer. Her name is Juliette Beaven; she’s the hottie on the front cover in her underwears. I originally thought that high-pitched coo of hers sounded pale and weakly, but now I realize that her voice is just as sexy as she looks. That creepy stalker guy standing behind her (if you can even make him out) is her husband. My heart sank a little bit to find out that she was married, but she was well out of my league to begin with! (That doesn’t mean I don’t feel bad, though!)
8mm have one style and one style alone: dreariness. If you don’t like this style, then you had might as well pack up your belongings and ship out. You can expect this to be heavy on the atmospheric synthesizers, piddly guitars and spaced-out vocals. ........Oh god, there are too many bands out there like this. No wonder rock is dead! But again, they did it right on the first three tracks. “Opener” is the opener of Opener. It’s a nicely captivating song that starts out with a creepy, descending chord progression played with a simple electric guitar. They don’t change the chord progression at all throughout, but they slowly increase the dynamics of the instrumentation so at least it continues to feel fresh as it plays.
“Save Yourself” is almost a real song. I mean, it not only has verses, but something that even resembles a *chorus*. (I have a sneaking suspicion that they actually meant that as a middle-eight section, but let’s just forget about that.) “Never Enough” is an OK song, but the dreariness of it starts to bog down on me. But at least it has a hooky melody, and Juliette’s ultra-sweet coo gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling!
Those were nice songs. Unfortunately, the last three tracks are pretty freaking awful. Arguably, “Nothing Left to Lose” is the worst one, but that will depend on how much you like rap music. They bring an outside guy into do it, and he’s just stale at it. I admit that I have a strong bias against rap, and I don’t know much about how to perform it. But I know that you can’t make it very far in the business if you don’t have a personality! I’m sure that even Al Gore is capable of rapping with a stronger personality than this guy. In “Crawl,” Beaven speaks most of the lyrics instead of sings them... I don’t have a problem with that, but the background instrumentation is so nerve-wracking that it’s virtually intolerable. “Give it Up,” the six-minute closer to Opener, simply should not have been six minutes long. Geez... it’s like I have to KILL someone to write a good chord progression now and again!
So anyway, here’s 8mm and their debut album. They did a follow-up, which I reviewed already. It’ll probably be a few years before I take a stab at rewriting that review, so... there...
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Songs to Love and Die By (2006)
Album Score: 9
A PR guy wanted me to review this group's EP, but I'm reviewing this album on my own volition! I can't say my main criticism from the EP to their first album have actually changed. It's a real snooze-fest! Albeit I can't dismiss it, because it's too damn tasteful! So maybe I'll have tasteful dreams!! Count this in as another entry in the usually tiring dream-pop genre. There does actually exist exciting and beautiful albums of this style. (Gosh, High Ball Me by Moose is the perfect dream-pop album. The Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips is of course a masterpiece. David Bowie's Heathen is magic. Hell! You can even give me a whiff of Duran Duran's Astronaut!)
This album definitely has a mood and sense of purpose, but these guys just don't have the willingness to breathe LIFE in most of these songs. This music, while usually nice, is entirely derivative of '00s dream-pop standards. Where's the ambition? Where's the creativity? Hmmm??? The melodies are usually fine and complex, but I sit here listening to it hoping for a glorious hook or two to brighten up the whole experience. They rarely come around. The production is technically perfect, but there's nothing about the instrumentation that grabs me by the ears. Just sooooooooooooooooooo boring. The album is only 40 minutes, but even that seems too long. That's a shame.
There's three songs I want to point out. The album opener "No Way Back" is about as good as it gets with this album. The instrumentation was well-done, and I can even detect the slightest hint of life behind all the dreariness. "Quicksand" is notable because of its melody. It's not the greatest melody known to mankind, but it does effectively show us all that a good melody can do for a song! Probably the best song in terms of development is the closing track "Forever and Ever Amen." All the others songs on this album have the unfortunate tendency to never alter its single, dreary mood from beginning to end. This track, however, has dramatic build-up that actually seems to go somewhere and mean something.
I know this review sounded negative, but I do think this is a good album. The flaws are rather debilitating, though, and keeps me from recommending this album to anybody unless you're a major fan of this sort of music. I appreciate 8mm and this effort, but I can't foresee any circumstances that would lead me to listen to it again. If this group continues to record music, I do wish they would try creativity out for a change. That'll fix a lot of their woes and even make up for the weakish melodies. (Seriously! Have fun playing with synthesizer tones! And RHYTHMS, baby!)
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