It isn’t out of the ordinary that we often seek refuge in words and sounds. Whether we are looking for mere comfort or a much more significant healing, music has, willingly or not, been a source for such recovery. And for those who pen and create these vessels of refuge, it is a most personal form of catharsis. It is difficult to discern the ideology or motives behind a band’s work – its raison d’être usually known only to those who created it – but in a case like this, it seems endlessly more difficult.
Feeder lost their drummer Jon Lee to suicide in early 2002 and this album is the studio work that followed his untimely departure. Aptly titled ‘Comfort in Sound’, it is more than just an album of reflection or homage, it appears to be the resulting cathartic experience of primary song writer Grant Nicholas. The album in its entirety is effectively a well-written emulsion of rock inspired pop sensibilities. While the album on occasion feels overly grief-stricken, it is when we take a look at the finer parts that we finally see a band ultimately reaching its potential.
The instrumentation is mostly simplistic – but it is conducive to some of the album’s less melancholic moments. The opening track “Just the Way I’m Feeling” is a juxtaposition of reflective lyrical humming (“Love in, love out / Find the feeling / Scream in, Scream out / Time for healing / You feel the moment’s gone too soon / You’re watching clouds come over you”) with savvy pop friendly rock. Its vocal driven verse is a prelude to its immense sounding choral release – symbolic of perhaps, just the way Nicholas was feeling.
While there is certainly an underlying tone of healing, some tracks mask this with a more strident approach. In the single “Come Back Around”, the expressive gloom (“Bruised with all rejection / we suffer the breaks”) is interlaced in a vibrant rock track – louder and far more biting than the majority of the album’s manner. It directs you into the fuzzed out “Helium”, its drum pounding and screeching guitar work is then smeared by the almost sweet chorus. “Child in You” is best a quiet ambience; sorrowful and intuitive with seemingly hopeful lyrics; “Close your eyes and drift away to someplace new / Where the skies are blue brings back the child in you” – but captures a more bitter consolation than anything else.
It is in the track “Comfort in Sound” that Nicholas is at his greatest; the healing musician. Tinged with delicate traces of keyboards, profound vocal work and the album’s strongest song structure, it is with this track that perhaps, they have truly found comfort. The sound certainly radiates a reflective nature and its lyrics, the most poignant, “We suffer love together as one / an empty heart with nowhere to turn / we find ourselves looking / back another way / a brand new day”. In a strange twist of events, there are some moments that feel overly aggressive – take the track “Godzilla” for instance; powerful guitars, grating vocals and those thumping drums are seemingly lost, an odd inclusion in this mostly thoughtful effort. Thankfully Nicholas’ aggressive tendencies fade fast, and in the album’s last four tracks, that willful, somber approach is once again adopted; from the distinctly sullen “Quick Fade” to the more vocal “Love Pollution” and the gracious ender “Moonshine”, with perhaps the final mark of respect (“But every time we cry / We wave the sun goodbye.”)
While we cannot say whether or not these lyrical tributes of reflection and healing are of the band’s personal tribulations, it is safe to say that if this album is homage of sorts – it certainly is a noble one; for whomever it is meant for. ‘Comfort in Sound’ is not an innovation or revelation, it is simply what the title states.
(Echo / Republic / Universal)
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.