|Photo by: Bandcamp.com|
Key Tracks: "Lost My Time"
The high school lunchroom is a place of commerce. Hot dogs, little frosted chocolate donuts and a demo from a mustached kid in a torn leather jacket find their way around the benches being peddled off for a dollar a pop. After some time, Torn Leather Kid meets up with his friend The Drummer, all of the demos pouring out of every orifice of Torn Leather Kid’s jacket. His drummer friend is visibly upset, but the kid strokes his mustache, smiles and says, “I think this shit’s about to blow.” The duo is Silent Lions, and this is a review of their album The Parliaments.
Featuring Dean Tartaglia on bass and vocals with Matt Klein on drums, Silent Lions is an odd couple that birthed an odd child. The Parliaments is a mix of drum and bass music, with some quirky “vocals,” featuring an over-the-top bubble of distortion and shoddy production. The quantity of songs on the album--which you can count on one hand--is fine, but there is much to be desired in the quality of the recordings themselves.
“Pop Rocks” is a good example of this issue, as Tartaglia coos, "Took my shot in the dark / Chance is just a tangible art you know / It’s impressive it’s impressionable it is making me feel / With discretion I am plotting my course getting ready to steal."
What is he on about? As those lyrics float on by, a complicated mixture of reverb and echo repeat the last word of each line offbeat. This leads to clunky piles of sound, which are indicative of an overly enthusiastic mix. And it's unpleasant. There are too many sounds polluting the tune, as well as the album in general: phasers, fuzz boxes, multi-choruses, octave distortion and vocal effects. All of these effects start to make the songs burst at the seams, with not a millisecond of music left untouched by the excess.
Taking cues from other garage rock bands like Pavement or The Black Keys, The Parliaments is an album that borrows some of the melodic and rhythmic ideas that mainstreamers have come to know and love. Silent Lions have proven their attention to detail, with each second of their debut being combed over with some effect. But they forgot two keys to great music. One of the keys is respecting space. The other is owning a sound.
It is difficult to pin down what it means to own a sound. In the case of The Parliaments, the music doesn’t feel authentic. There is a moment in the album’s closer, “Lost My Time,” where a beautiful improvised tenor solo takes over. For over a minute, Tartaglia and Klein are dueling for control, and it is pure musical chemistry. The sax grows more insistent as Klein subtly builds his beats, and the noise of an out-of-key bass works like some tweaked out accompanist.
But like all good things, the section comes to an end. The cocktail of effects returns with the final reprise of the song’s chorus, and the listener ends up confused by the music’s change in identity.
An identity crisis, Silent Lions’ The Parliaments is an album that struggles with what it wants to be. In its confusion, the music keeps getting wrapped in layer after layer of distortion while trying to find itself. There is an obvious chemistry between the group’s two members, but they need to sit down and really listen to one another. Here’s to the future.
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