Sunday, October 17, 2010

Faux Reality Review

When it comes to local bands in Kansas, it can be a risky business. The music scene in the Wichita area, as it stands, is something of a grab bag of heroes and zeroes. In the case of El Dorado's up-and-coming indie rockers, Faux Reality, you get a taste of the more talented side of the state.

 Since their humble beginning in early 2007, they've built upon their foundations as a pop-punk garage band up to seasoned Saturday night show heroes. They have certainly earned their spot on top of this small-town music scene with their long track record of performances all around the city, and it comes without surprise that they would hit the studio in late 2010 to record their debut EP, Faux Reality. With this release they display not only their growth as artists, but as individuals as well. They've transgressed the adolescence of their infamous Bonita demo and have found their footing as performers as shown by their superb instrumental work throughout the EP. It's been in the works for years, but now Faux Reality finally shows that they are a legitimate group worthy of a serious glance.

The most apparent and surprising change from Faux Reality's past work on their new EP is the gorgeous production value. The instruments all sound crisp and clean as they flow smoothly during the opening moments of "Nothing To Prove" up until they crash together for the first verse. With this they show their mixed influences from alternative and pop-punk bands of the last decade, the chorus of the aforementioned song displaying a blink-182-esque energy while the crescendo of "To The Sky" utilizes a classic indie formula. These varied styles allow Faux Reality to shine in what they do best -- performing with youthful vigor. It's clear upon first listening how far this band has come in terms of instrumentation as they create smooth and appropriate soundscapes for the lyrical content of each song.

And in terms of said lyricism, they provide what is expected. They float comfortably over their former adolescent rhymes in a fresher zone of above-par writing and give the listener a very enjoyable experience when paired with the other superb aspects of the EP. The catchiness of "The Vessel" is perfect for singing in the car and the wide variety of instruments and melodies on "To The Sky" work wonderfully as the soundtrack to a night walk. Fans of pop-punk, alternative, and even a little indie will find something to enjoy on this release and that's all that could be asked of for this slowly evolving group. If they hadn't yet caught your attention, perhaps Faux Reality can obtain your interest with their most recent (and easily most impressive) release, Faux Reality

Friday, October 1, 2010

Good Mourning Review

Matt Skiba sees the beauty in bloodshed and Dan Andriano sees the compassion in a glass of scotch. It takes little to understand why these two are the perfect duo to write some of the cleverest and gruesome lyrics in punk. After all, what else would you expect from the guys who joined the Church of Satan for kicks? Since 1998 they, and the abundance of drummers they've gone through, have released album after album of only the finest quality of hatred and alcoholic discontentment - and it's no different on 2003's Good Mourning. In terms of comparison to their previous outing (From Here To Infirmary), Alkaline Trio take another step forward from what they established and add more tweaks and bits of polish in order to properly display their talent. FHTI saw them dipping into their pop-punk side while Good Mourning finds the band returning to the gritty, unadulterated anger that fueled their previous albums, and would unfortunately fade upon their next.

 To say that Alkaline Trio aren't formulaic is perhaps giving them too much credit. It's always been the drug metaphors thrown in with a few songs about death and hate - but my God have they done it well. Skiba and Andriano couldn't make better writing partners, always supplying a wealth of profoundly personal songs and still finding a way to make them catchier than most pop tracks. The production value is once again another appreciated step up from their previous efforts as well as the consistency in the energy (which has never been insufficient to begin with). There's a certain intensity that has been added to the group's personality for this record that shines superbly when the bass lines twang and flow ("This Could Be Love", "Blue Carolina") and when Skiba thrashes the strings ("Donner Party", "Continental") and of course when Derek Grant provides a pounding onslaught on the drums.

This raw emotion isn't only present in the music - though it borrows greatly from its energy to really get the point across - it also emanates immensely from the songwriting. Both Andriano and Skiba's lyricism reaches top form on the bitter numbers like "100 Stories" and the Trio classic "Blue In The Face". The contrast they create with their very similar, but still blatantly separate lyrical styles is such a unique treat. Andriano relies heavily on his self-conscious and brooding tone while still containing that raw, bitter aftertaste to portray the punch to the gut sadness that he so effortlessly creates. While Skiba, on the other hand, embraces that bitter resentment with lines like, "Fighting back the tears and every urge to Van Gogh both our ears", utilizing his talent for clever writing to mask his agony.

While their proceeding albums would begin to disappoint certain die-hard Trio fans, it is a common consensus that Good Mourning was the album that really showed them at their prime. Everything was put into place perfectly -the energy, the emotion, and the slight necessary polish. The formulas may begin to expire for some newcomers, but it still holds that passion and aggressiveness that Alkaline Trio's career-defining debut brought. With a promise for destruction and a lust for hate, Good Mourning dots the i's and crosses the t's to seal Alkaline Trio's place as one of the best punk acts of the past decade.