March 29, 2006

CD Review: The Smashup - Being and Becoming

The Smashup are another in a long line of post-hardcore, screamo, emo, Taste of Chaos styled acts to flood the market. I am still not a big fan of this scene, but every once in awhile an act will transcend the label and actually grab my attention. The Smashup are one of those bands that is able to hold my attention, somewhat.

The band may fall under that screamo type banner, but there are other influences here, I sense touches of alternative and metal creeping in. This combines to create an interesting concoction that makes the bands name perfectly suited to the music. The sound is indeed a "smashup" of other styles. There is some heavy riffing and fist pumpingly raspy vocals that just dig themselves into your head.

If nothing else, they are incredibly catchy in their well structured music. The problem is that is also a problem with them. They are so catchy that it is hard to believe that it had a natural evolutionary course, it is almost too catchy and structured to not have had some sort of label influence. I can almost see some label execs standing behind the mixing board, and even in the darkest corners of the studio, directing traffic. Quietly becoming the puppet masters to another band, pulling the strings of another young band. On the other hand, perhaps they just are this well structured and are able to create this maturely constructed madness.

The sound is a double edged sword. Vocalist Watt White leads the band through the insanity with his raspy, barely controlled vocal style, while guitarist Vin Alfieri leads the structured instrumental portion of the band. It is odd, almost as if they are being held back, perhaps for fear that their full energy would fail to be captured on the shiny disks. White is the star of the show, his vocals are front and center, grabbing your attention and keeping you from thinking to hard about the possible letdown that is the rest of the band. He has a voice that hangs onto control and is truly the main reason to listen to them.

The album kicks off with the anthemic "Never Going to Kill Us." I can almost hear the crowd singalongs with this one. It kicks in with force and just invites you to join in. That is followed by the song which has been quoted ad infinitum in other reviews, and is the song which pretty much sealed my favorable opinion of the band. The song is "No Name" and begins with the great sequence of "Okay shut up! The Dead guy’s got the floor! I might just get emotional so bear with me. Okay shut up! We both know the rules: this is a fifty yard death grip dash for fools!" Loved it.

Other highlights include "Violencer Part II," which begins with a fun little strumming sequence before kicking into a slow chugga-chugge riff with nicely timed double bass. Another track to consider is "Effigy," a rather explosive rocker that features some nice screaming from Watt, along with another sing along chorus. The album closes with a nice pairing of high energy and acoustic madness. First is "Rachel's Day" which is a six and a half minute journey into drug addiction. It is followed with the album closer "Murder to the Mattress," a track dealing with abortion and a young girl. It features a nicely controlled acoustic guitar which helps to guide the vocals which threaten to spiral out of control.

Bottomline. It may not be perfect, it may have had a bit too much of a label influence, but it is still a successful album. A collection of songs which have successfully drawn me into a genre which is not my forte. This is a band centered on a talented frontman in Watt White. So, give it a shot, it may just win you over in its high energy infectiousness.

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