October 7, 2006

CD Review: Anti-Hero - Unpretty

Anti-Hero is an interesting blend of old school Joan Jett and 1990's grunge, combining into a mix that isn't terribly original, but does contain a certain level of attraction. Their sound would have been a better fit in the overall music landscape about ten years ago, still it does have a twist on the whole retro thing that actually works pretty well.

The band was formed in London, Canada from the ashes of a few local acts that imploded. They came together under the Anti-hero banner with a singular mind to make a go as a fulltime band. They all had extensive experience playing the locl rock scene and have melded together into a tight knit unit.

Anti-hero is fronted by Rose Perry, a classically trained vocalist with a background in opera and Celtic singing. She is the highlight of the album, her voice plays a nice clean counterpoint to the mid-tempo grunge guitars behind her. There is an earnestness to her voice that is as inviting into the fold as it is aggressive in the music's indictment of the commercial ideals of beauty, of the betrayal of trust, and other themes of empowerment.

Backing her up are Jesse Tomes on guitars, Nic Haverbeke on bass, and Matty Cole on drums. They come across as a tight knit unit, even though the music doesn't take all that many chances. The sound is very reminiscent of the grunge boom of the mid-1990s, which is good and bad. The sound, combined with good production values take away some of the rough edges that defined the grunge era, but it also doesn't move the sound forward. There are some moments where I would have liked to really hear the guitars cut loose.

Unpretty gets off to a pretty good start with the grunge wall of "Not Good Enough." The song has the right combination of in your face attitude, and a positive message of over coming those who seek to keep you down. From there we move onto one of the catchier cuts on the disk, the title track "Unpretty," a direct attack on the ideals of beauty that are sold by the media versus the realistic image.

Taken as a whole, the album is enjoyable, but doesn't have a lot of variety in its sound. Still, the song writing does improve the further into the album that you venture. When I made my first pass through, I wasn't all that impressed with the rather blatant lyrics. There was a lack of subtlety to them that didn't initially impress me. However, the more I listened to it, the more I was won over by the energy, they are willing to put themselves out there, and it is infectious. Perhaps not the best of the style, but definitely worth checking out.

Bottomline. Anti-hero is a band that tries hard with it's near miss Unpretty. Rose Perry is an interesting new voice on the landscape, and I would like to see her express her range a bit more. Her voice is strong, and seems capable of much more. Likewise, the music sounds held back at times, I'd like to hear them cut loose with a little bit more on the heavy side of life. Despite the unreasched potential, this is an album that is worth a listen.

While checking their website, it appears they are looking for a new drummer, maybe that is what they need to take it to the next level. Time will tell.

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