Feng Strung – Reviewing the Review -with the High Strung’s new album
Cliché and hyperbole have drained the power of the music review, in terms of influence or insight. But the might of the music review was also punctured when most-every listener steadily attained the ability to hear most-any album before said-reviews were published – thus the listeners’ minds were already made up.
Critics (do they still call them that?) have to either defend or prosecute, arguing to sway your own verdict on their client, -the work. But the mobile generation waits for no published critic to influence their own conclusions. Hang the DJ. Hang the Rock Crit.
So when a writer (this one) feels the urge building to dare to claim that the newest work from an artist or group is their, let’s just dive right into the clichés, “best to date…,” it is now subjected to being swiftly scoffed-off as just another all too subjective sensationalism. Cliché. Hyperbole.
And untested…I mean, really, folks, how can anyone be so bold to say that this is it with just a flurry of words and do we even appreciate the gravity of what it entails for both you, the listener, and the band-in-question. So final. So absolute.
But then, who even gets to say “best to date” anymore, in a world where bands seem to only last for three albums before evaporating?
Another thing: can’t the Post-Everything generation also, then, subscribe to being Post-Classics. Let It Be wasn’t as good as Abbey Road or Trompe Le Monde still isn’t as good as Surfer Rosa or El Camino sounds too poppy and you’d rather listen to Attack & Release again. So many artists will be snared by their audiences’ preoccupation with the warm-n-fuzzies that they got from their past work and their yearn to recapture that. The hope is that the next work can be viewed as an –apple- to the most recent work’s –orange and that we don’t have to sanctify that apple so much… The apple is over…
“Leave one place and go to another one…” –the jogging punch of the drums and shoulder-shaking jangle of the tambourines push us forward into ¿Posible o’ Imposible?‘s first track.
“You say it’s over…but I think it’s just begun…” the verse cascades over the pulsing bass. “…I know why I’m so dissatisfied / I long for extraordinary times…”
I think it should come down to how natural it sounds, how comfortable, confident-even, the artist seems, through the sounds of the work. We, the listeners, have that sixth sense, I think. We can hear insincerity like dogs smell fear. If I wanna say a work is someone’s…gulp… “best,” then, this time, with the High Strung and ¿Posible o’ Imposible?, I can say it because the vigor of their voice, the uncanny synchronicity of their instrumentation seem to exude some heretofore unfound dynamism. Something more focused. I, just like any juror, am convinced.
Not that they ever lacked dynamism –but o’ Imposible? invites the consideration that it hadn’t yet been focused to its greatest, most precise potential – or is it more that the flavors of their sensibilities hadn’t simmered enough. “Best If Enjoyed By ___this (date)…”
Should we be so hesitant to say that the latest is in fact the greatest? Herein lies the problem – that claim requires criteria, potentially snobbish, overanalytical criteria. If music reviews are losing their might, their influence, then maybe we should embrace the reality that they’re no longer bound to criteria. With o’ Imposible? – it should go on feeling. Something anthemic, if you will.
These songs, like any fine specimen of rock n roll, get into your bloodstream, spur you, make you wanna run (to where?? Shut up and just run!). “On Your Way Up” and “Parachute” are songs that sound exactly as they’re titled – either with a kneed-and-knocked riff ferociously herking up and jerking down and then back up again or with a sweet soothing melody that wafts downward with the delicate flutter of windblown sheets.
For the Strung songs this time around, chock it up to some kind of sonic feng shui wrought from the studio, that precise mixture of chemicals that bursts the plume of radiant magenta smoke from the bubbling beaker. When that majestically growling guitar slathers its gallant, waving solos atop an entrancing bass groove in “Model Boats” it evokes a yin-yang moment, the drums –whether marching, waltzing, strutting, are in a harmonious step with the vibe of each song. If the bass is getting funky with a flanger pedal than the vocals sound as though they react to that, the voice attaining this high-wispy tone to match it.
The four elements ebb and flow. Not trying to wring out that lo-fi indie-pop wrag too much and not trying to overindulge in pedal-stomped effervesence of some space-rock-ish drift. Bluesy tones waft in, lower crooned ballads of poetic poignancy are sprinkled in pinches, the drums slam or they shuffle, the bass is strangled into warbbled barrel-rolls at all the right spots but knows when to pull back…And, yes, you get a healthy dose of guitar solos – but, c’mon, it is rock n roll…mostly.
The High Strung’s 7th studio album comes out April 17th on Paper Thin Records
A song is a song is a song. I know. But maybe it takes a band three albums to finally fall into that certain-kinda-synch. There’s pure raw punk rock creativity – that has it’s place – punching that shit out and splattering your 4/4-rock guts glory onto the wall, verse-chorus-verse-shout-shout-shout – Rock n roll should be about spontaneity, absolutely. But if I’m making a case to you, juror, than o’ Imposible?’s case is that there’s something to be said for having sense for what a song needs, beyond the sum of its parts.
o’ Imposible? is one of those records that play out like theatre; the instrumental elements, as your actors, enter onto the stage, leave, from one side, or from another, through trapdoors even, and they explode into rousing monologues or hush downward into dramatic revelations with such casual grace that it seems scripted.
The High Strung are already thespians compared to the three-and-done average of most new bands, this being their 7th album and this being their 11th year together.
The title track rustles its way in, the drums distant at first like a train over the horizon, thrumming its way up to the forefront as the bass booms in with a jazzy lilt and the guitars start washing in like the pensive pour of rainwater across your living room window; the verses sway downward like maple leaves in a chilled autumn breeze but start climbing back upward with a gritty and glorious belt, into to the chorus…
And into the bridge…“Let’s take it from the top, boys…” just as the guitar, singed with this sublimely mellifluous tone, starts washing its way down a waterslide of a solo. Swelling, softening, or just your simple strum-and-strut – everything comes together, like any actor, on their mark. Next line. Next scene.
Take it from the top.
But anyway… you be the judge. This is just what I hear.