The Numbered Head – Summer Demo 2010 // REVIEW

Summer Demo 2010

As far as seasonal vibes go, there's not what I would call a serious chunk of summer here, but as a temporal description I suppose it's accurate. The album starts off with “Visit,” which features a nice mellow bassline and guitars, and a hopeful buildup, but when it doesn't go anywhere it's a little disappointing. The songs becomes pretty repetitive, mostly thanks to the vocals – very interesting melody wise, but the lyrics leave a lot to be desired. Maybe there's a personal emotional connection behind the lyric's content, but it's not clear to the listener. At least a nice variety of background vocals keep the track moving along by the end, but the track still feels a little over-stretched.

“Black Sox” starts off thick and the male/female vocal trade offs are tight and punchy, but there's not a lot going on behind. I can't help but recall Halifax legends Death By Nostalgia on hearing the stacatto male vocals, but the vocals are so high in the mix that it's easy to lose track of the drums and guitars, and they don't seem congruous – maybe if they were buried in the mix a little more, but where they are now, the song sounds more like a low-fi karaoke track. Again, “Itchy” kicks off on a good punk vibe with a driving, growling bass line, but is too all over the place and looses focus. The band has energy but the vocals seem to be unrelated to the music. I like the lo-fi, lower vocal sound here more than some of the brighter, high vocals heard on some of the other songs.

There are a lot of interesting intros, like the 8-bit sounding bass of “Happy Joy...” but here the drummer seems to be unable to focus on one beat for very long, constantly switching between straight 4 beats, 2/4, snare shuffles, and various cymbal work. The song veers off into a country feel and the various scalar bass runs seem a little out of place where one hears an otherwise standard root/five bassline – in the drums and vocals. It's nice when a band doesn't wear their influences on their sleeve, but this seems a little all over the map and confusing.

“Manaction” heads somewhere totally different, with an over processed 90's industrial guitar sound and more ambiguous lyrics - is it sexy? Or is there “too much of your too much happening?” You can't fault the quality of her voice, but there isn't much of narrative happening, in the music or in the lyrics. The same problem arises in the final track, “Alligator Gallop,” which starts with some strong drums and a great raunchy, off-kilter bassline, but more incomplete lyrics. The idea here seems to be to fill in missing syllables by repeating the last word. Odd guitar solos are, granted, unique for a rock song, and the weird riffing works for the songs. Kudos to the drums for keeping at least a similar beat for the whole song, and a great cymbal bashing ending.

“Black Sox” and “Itchy” are probably the best songs on the album, because it leaves the listener wanting more (not coincidental, they're also the shortest songs on the album), and there's a great electro punk sound that recalls great female fronted bands like controller.controller, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (who the band covered for a set of tributes at Reflections), or old You Say Party! We Say Die! Unfortunately the band doesn't seem to be able to sustain that sound for as long as one would hope, and overly busy vocals and basslines sometimes bring down what should be some spacier moments or great dynamic builds.

Overall the band has some fresh ideas, and there's a few moments of great guitar work, especially on the first and final tracks . But a lot of the details are hidden behind nasty compression and grungy digital distortion – the CD sounds like it was burnt from mp3s. I wish that the ideas the band started with – like the first few seconds of “Visit” and “Block Sox” - were fleshed out more: the band, especially the bass, seems to want to break out and have more to say, but there's a lot of rush to get to the vocals, which end up being over-stretched. I think these guys could do some great work as a garage rock band, if they can focus the sound and ramp up the hooks and the dynamics. I look forward to a full length CD to see what the band is capable of in the future.

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Review by Daniel Nightingale


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some of the greatest songs ever written...and probably most of the songs you like are repetitive!
how is it?
just sayin'
its a song.