April 8, 2008

CD Review: Ours - Mercy (Dancing for the Death of an Imaginary Enemy)

A few years back I was browsing the shelves looking for some new music to check out. As I perused the shelves there was an album that caught my eye. The band name was Ours. Thinking it was a curious name for a band, I picked it up and found an even more interesting album title. The album was called Distorted Lullabies, and the cover featured the mostly obscured face of one of the band members (turned out to be singer Jimmy Gnecco). Everything pointed towards dark indie rock. Not sure why I thought that, but that was the impression I got. Anyway, I ended up buying the album and really liking what I heard. I would go on to mention the album to a number of friends, none of who had ever heard of them. While I truly enjoyed the album and would pull it out for a spin every once in a while, I soon forgot to keep an eye on them, thus missing their subsequent releases. Here we are, years later, and an album arrives on my doorstep from Ours. The name clicked and I eagerly put it in the CD player and pressed play. I was greeted with that familiar voice, only this time it felt bigger and more emotional.

The album may be with a title that smacks of pretentiousness, but that is about as far as it goes. My first impression was that it was a little self-indulgent, but frankly, I did not care much so long as the music is good. Still, it is a pretty cool sounding title that, once again, hints at the tone of the music. Much like Distorted Lullabies before it, Mercy (Dancing for the Death of an Imaginary Enemy) is a a dark album that is filled with depressing excursions into art rock. Do not take depressing to be bad, rather it has a deeply personal sound that involves the listener as it dances across the bleak landscape.

Photo by Damon GreenWhen you first hear Ours, you will likely get strong flashes of Jeff Buckley. Listening to Jimmy Gnecco's voice and inflections it is hard not to, the similarities are as clear as day. In addition to Buckley, I heard touches of The Cure and Radiohead all blended together in this art rock mic. Despite the comparisons, Gnecco is still able to carve out his own direction and differentiate himself. The songwriting is a thing of beauty, with flowing guitars, smooth rhythms, and an expansive soundstage, Ours moves with an ebb and flow that is all of its own.

The songs on Mercy are absolutely soul shaking. There is something about the dramatics that Gnecco lends through his wails and somber inflections. It is a style that is as likely to draw you in as it is to repel. The sound is daring in its invitation to walk alongside them as they travel the darker path. Just how willing are you to let the somber feelings dig into your being? Will you take that journey, or will you stand aside and let it pass in favor of something else?

My advice is to let the music wash over you, sail down the haunting river. It is an experience that is well worth taking. From the first notes of the opening track, "Mercy," right through to the last of "Get Up," you will be taken on an emotional rollercoaster.

One thing to remember about Ours is that it is not all about Jimmy Gnecco, even though it is more like Jimmy Gnecco and his band rather than a band called Ours (much like what Megadeth has become), what with its revolving cast of musicians. While Gnecco is undoubtedly the linchpin and will have the greatest affect on a listener, those musicians should not be ignored, as their contribution is much more than coincidental. From the smooth guitar licks to the bass and drum rhythms, the music is highly accomplished and is just as effective and emotional. Of course, it does not hurt to have a producer of Rick Rubin's talent at the helm.

Bottomline. In short, this is an album not to be missed. It is as involving as anything else I have heard recently. They may not be getting as much notice as others I have mentioned, but do not let that dissuade you from experiencing an incredible album.



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