By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Slouching toward distinction
Carpe Diem Records
Like another band on the local Carpe Diem label, Cafe Noir, Plebeian Monarch's music is a reconstitution of familiar melodies. But Plebian Monarch's Equus lacks what Cafe Noir--through its distinctly Old-World sound--presents: a truly new experience. Throughout most of the nine tracks in Equus, there's an uncomfortable recognizability factor. Steven Patrick Collins' and Greg Vanderpool's guitars suggest the riffs of U2 and the Cure during the opening of many songs; hell, their duet on "Great Wall Burning" (they share singing credit throughout Equus) carries such a pastoral vibe that it suggests post-Police Sting. In theory, none of these derivations would necessarily be bad. It's just that Equus' overall sound is more "atmospheric" (as in "Floods Arose To Take Me Under") than energetically distinct.
Things do start off with potential, however, with "A Long Time of Longing." The song showcases Collins' and Vanderpool's singing favorably, as does "Slumber"--the one track where the quartet makes their hazy, atmospheric sound work. "Woman at the Well" could be a lively tune, but the song is crippled by too much reverb on the guitars; this effect is overused, and used for no good means, throughout the album. Now the good news: "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" ends the whole thing with a real bang. It's the song where the singing, the guitars, Steven Scheifley's drums, Chris Godbey's bass, and the production finally all come together and work to create a sound that Plebeian Monarchs can truly call their own. It's enough to make one forget asking, "Why couldn't the rest of the album have been like this?" and instead hope there are 10 more like it on the band's next CD.
Meet the new pop
It's easy to grow complacent in the current music scene, now that bands like the Refreshments have taken the place of the Replacements, but tight, hooky arrangements supporting adenoidal vocals are still not enough to rely on (see the Judys, curse of). Javelin Boot is a competent, likable group hobbled by its apparent inability to understand the difference between Kim Fowley and Kim Wilde. Jangle, proud pop-copping, and disposability aren't fatal flaws--or we'd all be making pilgrimages to Tom Petty's grave--but an album must still be able to respond to the age-old "what's the diff?" with more than a shrug.
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