Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Stonebelly- Perspectives and Perceptions

Perspectives and Perceptions

Released: April 2014

Stonebelly, a power-trio hailing from Omaha, have created a whiplash inducing album. Each song draws from different aspects of blues, psychedelia, reggae, progressive, folk, and traditional 70's rock. The results can be a bit staggering upon first listen, but once the initial shock wears off, it becomes a key part of the album's strength. The weakness comes from whenever the songs don't pull the rug out from underneath you. 

Perspectives and Perceptions starts off with Rising-- an upbeat rocker propelled by the tribally elastic drumming of Kevin Korus, and the rubbery bass of Scott Dowark.  It starts off pretty straight forward, with Mike Hollon's instantly memorable voice raging against an unfair world, until the bridge hits with this weird bossanova/surfer riff and drum work that eventually blends itself back into the straight rock. This is a concoction that throws the listener through a loop, but keeps it all together in the end. Contrast that to Back in Time or New Revolution

Back in Time is a classic rock throwback to the hazy, sun-dappled days of driving big cars, hitting the highway, grabbing a girl, and not caring what happens next. The thing is, the songs goes out of its way to say those exact things. It's a nostalgic song for a time that even the songs of that period of "America" was nostalgic for when they were living it. That was hard to express... essentially it is a song about nothing new. Which is the main problem for New Revolution, as well. It lists all the current problems of today as if Mike were reading a bunch of newspaper headlines. This wouldn't be an issue, if this all hadn't been beat to death by nearly every news outlet, politically leaning band, soccer mom, or friend who reads Huffington Post. The only truly insightful thought is the strange line, "Humans use a language we can only understand/ We speak for the air, rivers, and land." Which is kind of mind bending in a way. The true crime of these songs are that they don't allow any of the members to play loose. No one can get crazy, unpredictable, or have a bit of fun with the structure. 

When these guys do have some fun in the studio, you get the brain melting cacophony of Right Back Where We Start. Like, where do we start on this song? The first thing is drums, classic booming, tribal drums. Next is a playful, bouncy bass line, then blasting horns? That came out of no where. Hollon takes on the role of band leader to this twisted swinging/Doors-esque/big beat band and commands it to be the weirdest two and a half minutes on the album. 

Other shake ups include the Alice in Chains meditation on good and evil of Devil's Mind. Complete with sparse, rolling drum lines that signal dark, ominous things are about to happen, a lurching bass that promises those things will happen, and scorched guitar noise that promises those things will happen to you-- and only you-- the one thing missing is Layne Staley's cracked baritone screaming out over the desolation. It all gets pulled out again by a sparse bridge section, leading into a nervous guitar line and stuttering drum that might be the fallout from that something horrible. 

No Escape is a woozy, swaggering reggae song (more Clash than Sublime) about being put down, and fighting back. Darkheart is a moody, layered song about being closed off and cold, because you've been hurt too many times, and that only the right person can shine a light on your heart. This Time? is a classic 70's FM throwback song that gets it right: not too self serious, doesn't get caught up in some forced nostalgia. It is just an upbeat song with a hummable melody and swing that will make you smile as you walk down the street. 

The flipside to that is The Groove, a song about... really nothing other than being really good at dancing? Or just having what Kramer refers to as "Kavorka." It has a decent groove and instrumentals, but the whole thing feels meandering and rather pointless-- proving that there is a fine balance at play here, and that when Stonebelly find it, they are as exciting and unpredictable as any band out there. But, when they can't find it, they sound lost within their own groove. 

Final Verdict:
Worth a Listen

Right Back Where We Start
Devil's Mind
This Time?

Low Points:
New Revolution
Back in Time

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