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Monday, February 20, 2017

P.O.D. -- Satellite



P.O.D.'s The Fundamental Elements of Southtown expanded my mind, and taught me to expect diversity in my heavy music. While the nu-metal bands P.O.D. Were unfairly lumped in with were content just trying to be a heavier, less cerebral version of Nirvana, P.O.D. evinced a love for Slayer, Bob Marley, and Bad Brains. Their music, full of authentic soul, could be angry, but it could also be reflective, spiritual, and, God forbid, uplifting and fun. In the two years between The Fundamental Elements of Southtown, and P.O.D.'s second major label album, Satellite, I found plenty of new music, but few heavy bands could come close to P.O.D.'s wide spectrum of sound and feeling. Admittedly, I discovered Deftones before I was recommended P.O.D., and Deftones could definitely match P.O.D. in the department of diversity, but unfortunately, those were two of the first heavy radio rock bands I was exposed to, and not many bands could measure up. I enjoyed Project 86's Drawing Black Lines, but outside of that, not many other bands who got screaming on the airwaves did very much for me. I eagerly awaited Satellite.
My roommate, a heavy music freak who also shared my love of hardcore and extreme metal (which is not P.O.D.'s genre), somehow snagged a legit copy of Satellite a week before it was released. He played it in the apartment, and I tried to ignore it, preferring to wait to jam to my own copy when the album was released...on the upcoming Tuesday, September 11th, 2001.
On September 9th, I found a Wal-Mart ad advertising Satellite for cheap and made plans to head there after class on the 11th...they also had The Police's greatest hits album on sale for $6.99, and I love The Police, so I planned to pick that up, as well.
The next day wasn't anything out of the ordinary. I went to class, went to my student worker job, went back to class, took a Mass Comm test that quickly alerted me to the fact that I did not want to major in Mass Comm anymore, went back to my apartment, ate my customary four slices of wheat bread and a large glass of water for dinner (spending $20 on music for me that fall was my grocery budget for a week). I had bad dreams that night (probably due to my ongoing malnutrition), walked into the living room to hear my roommate say, “I had bad dreams last night.”
“Yeah, me, too,” I said, plopping on the couch.
“There's a fire at one of the World Trade Center Towers,” he said, getting up to finish his morning routine. He was six years older than me, and during that year of being roommates, we didn't always gel, though I love the guy to this day (and he still loves metal!).
I turned up the volume. I think Dan Rather was on by then (we only had three channels...2, 9, 44). I stared at the fire, trying to figure out what was going on. As I squinted at the burning tower, a jetliner flew directly into the building next to it. The rest of the day did not go as planned.
Yet, still, somehow, at the end of it, I went to Wal-Mart and bought P.O.D.'s Satellite...and The Police's greatest hits (since I didn't really sleep that night, I, at some point, listened to "Invisible Sun" on about a three-hour loop...and hey, I'm about to get to The Police, too!). It seems that after skipping work to watch the news, then going to my one not canceled class (that Spanish teacher was an odd one), then calling all of my loved ones to check on them, I...well, I just wanted to go to Wal-Mart to buy the new P.O.D. What else was I going to do?
It turns out that a lot of Americans needed some P.O.D. after that morning.
Satellite is uniquely equipped to deal with that kind of event. It combines the P.O.D.'s sense of realism with their unique brand of optimism. It kicks off with a huge-sounding drum beat, the production values beefed up to maximum levels, and unrolls three positive, life-affirming songs right off the bat. "RISE - Let your spirit fly/RISE- Stand up for yourself/RISE- Hold your head up high/Our time has come/Set it off" vocalist Sonny Sandoval commands in the opening song's chorus, as the band showcase all their best attributes, a crushing main chorus riff alternating with a spacier, more mystical verse. The next song, the uplifting "Alive" finds Marcos Curiel discovering more soul and feeling in two chords than most guitarists find over the course of a full album. Fittingly, the song's much-played music video alternates between footage of a man surviving a car crash with images of surfers and skate-boarders making the most of a day, and the band jamming out. "Boom" is a party song, still played in Tiger Stadium before football games sixteen years later. The band then dig into their darker musical and emotional palette with "Youth of the Nation."

The song is relatable, and I think people were craving something like this post-9/11--something that both acknowledged the darkness, yet wasn't full of despair. And as soon as this song is done, it goes to a great spacey interlude, "Celestial," before launching into the soaring self-titled track. It's almost as if the band and producer, Howard Benson, anticipated this moment in time. The rest of the album never loses track, full of energy, passion, and moments of darkness and light. P.O.D. never drop their older influences either, going into a rapid-fire punk song that explodes into a full-blown reggae jam, with "Without Jah, Nothin." The Latin influences also loom huge, particularly in "Thinking About Forever." Truth be told, though, these influences can be felt song-to-song. It's all a part of that unique P.O.D. flavor that set them apart from their so-called peers, and which encouraged the world.
For a time after this release, P.O.D. were huge. I saw them in a packed out theater in Houston in November of 2001, and they literally lifted my spirits, as literal as the metaphysical spirit can be. Jessica, my cool cousin who introduced me to P.O.D., Adrian, my best friend/cousin/champion competitive eater, and Marie, Adrian's now ex-girlfriend and possible Lebanese princess, saw them together, and hung out on the curb behind the theater after the show. Some of the band's street team came by and gave us some swag (I still have one of the posters!), and after a while, the band themselves emerged from their bus with cases of water for fans who had stuck around. Jessica and I looked and smelled gross, drenched with sweat, as we had pushed ahead to the front of the crowd during the show. Sonny did say to "rush the stage, grab the mic, show me what you got," so we did. If I remember correctly, the energy of the crowd freaked Marie out, so Adrian had to hang in the back with her. Jessica and I, though, generally two individuals of super-model level attractiveness, looked like wet dogs (and I look emaciated from my then bread and water diet (I'm not making this up, I was flat broke and living off of wheat bread and water. I lost an incredible amount of weight and was by far the thinnest I have ever been in my life), strangely like late-career Michael Jackson...I think I hadn't quite grown into my neck yet). Here are pictures of us with the band after as proof of everything I just said, even the parentheticals.

Sonny was the most approachable platinum-selling frontman I have ever encountered. A group formed around him, and he engaged everyone, together, in deep discussion, as we talked about racism in the South, how conservative the local church culture was, and how few of us fit in. When this was over, well into the AM, when the rest of the bus was loaded, and the tour-manager was pleading with Sonny that the bus had to get on the road to make the next gig--and I am not making this up--Sonny hugged everyone. I went to shake his hand, and the dude said, "Naw, ah," pulled me in, and bear-hugged me, as well. He showed a love for everyone around him, though strangers, and I think that has helped create a dedicated fanbase, which keeps this band alive into their 25th year of existence. This real, contagious love and positivity is what helped P.O.D. sell four-plus million copies of Satellite, and it is a huge reason I can throw on the album today, and instead of remembering the hopeless feelings of towers falling, and fighter jets headed across the Persian Gulf, feel uplifted. There are bigger things in life than death.

2001 Atlantic
1. Set It Off 4:16
2. Alive 3:23
3. Boom 3:08
4. Youth of the Nation 4:19
5. Celestial 1:24
6. Satellite 3:30
7. Ridiculous (featuring Eek-a-Mouse) 4:17
8. The Messenjah 4:19
9. Guitarras de Amor 1:14
10. Anything Right (featuring Christian Lindskog) 4:17
11. Ghetto 3:37
12. Masterpiece Conspiracy 3:11
13. Without Jah, Nothin (featuring H.R.) 3:42
14. Thinking About Forever 3:46
15. Portrait 4:32

Monday, February 13, 2017

P.O.D. -- The Fundamental Elements of Southtown


The introduction of my "cool cousin" Jessica to these reviews last month was very deliberate. Jessica plays a very important part in this P.O.D. narrative.
When I was a senior in high school, Jessica moved to Texas for a little while, and I lost my pipeline to coolness. Thankfully, she came back to visit for a little while in early 2000, and while taking me to a bunch of cool places, humored a question from me.
"Hey, so I've kind of been coming back to my faith lately. Musical encouragement is always nice, but lately, I've really been in a kind of Deftones mood. Like heavy music that could still be played on the radio. I haven't found any Christian bands like that. I love Deftones, but I wouldn't mind having a Christian go-to band with a similar sound."
"Have you ever heard of P.O.D.?"
I had not, but I sure went to Wal-Mart as soon as Jessica headed back to the Lonestar state, so I could pick up the new P.O.D.. My little brother, not the biggest fan of heavy music, was forced to listen to the CD with me, but he sure got used to it because I listened to P.O.D.'s The Fundamental Elements of Southtown so many times that I wore the plastic off the compact disc.
Why, though? Why did I listen to this album a billion times? Why did P.O.D. grow such a fervent fanbase? How did they manage to unseat boyband and pop-starlets from the top-spot on MTV's Total Request Live again and again?
I'm gonna go with authenticity.
P.O.D. don't seem like a bunch of whiny poseurs. They seem like four talented musicians from diverse musical backgrounds, creating a vivid musical image of the tough San Diego streets where they grew up.
World-building is not something frequently mentioned when people talk about music. This has been a singles dominated musical culture for...ever, but the albums I enjoy the most take me to another place. A couple great singles surrounded by non-cohesive filler does not do it for me.
P.O.D. set about world-building immediately in The Fundamental Elements of Southtown. "Greetings" welcomes the listener before "Hollywood" keys the listener in on a town north of San Diego that isn't where the band hail from. P.O.D. create a general feeling of darkness in "Hollywood," with dark atmospheric guitar and Sonny's under-stated vocals alternating with heavy riffs and aggressive vocals in the chorus. "Hollywood" makes a point that selling your soul to get away might be worse than staying put. The song ends with a chilling Cruella Deville-esque laugh before diving into a song about where P.O.D. are from, "Southtown."
"Southtown" describes the perilous youth of vocalist, Sonny Sandoval, as he recalls the constant feeling of not knowing if he would live through the day.. The song feels real, yet it also combines a rare combination of heaviness and catchiness--not insipid catchiness, but memorability.
The band then segue into a very important aspect of their sound. If TFEOS was all "Thank God I didn't die today" moroseness, it wouldn't be all that enjoyable to listen to. Thankfully, P.O.D. like to have fun, and "Checkin' Levels" introduces that side of the band. It's a segue track featuring Sonny free-styling over the band tuning up, which leads directly to "Rock the Party," a song about exactly what it is titled. However, even "Rock the Party" seems to have a social consciousness, as well as an outpouring of goodwill, as Sonny raps out, "to spread His love is the master plan." The band show here that their religion isn't a glum thing they want to force upon people, but simply their way of life. This was a great album for a young Christian like I was nearly 20(!) years ago, and now, even as my life has grown vastly more complex and complicated, it still feels like a spiritual oasis, its positive vibes a balm.
"Lie Down," picks up right where "Southtown" left off. To this point, the band have shown their metal and hip-hop roots, but as "Lie Down" ends, the band unroll an authentic reggae song that still sits comfortably among their best work.
"Set Your Eyes to Zion" is mystical, chilled-out to the core, revealing Marcos Curiel as a guitar player filled with soul. The song is about as good an album centerpiece as one could ask for.

This is followed by the transitional instrumental, "Lo Siento," which shows off the band's latin music influences (3 of 4 members are Latino). We then get a blazingly angry U2 cover, some more atmospheric, world-building segues, and songs that blend all of the influences I've previously mentioned. I am particularly fond of "Tribal," which posits the band at the forefront of a sort of religious and social movement, taking the misfits around the band, and transforming them into agents of positive change. For at least a decade, this band was highly capable of mobilizing its fans, creating a "Warrior" movement. I also love the emotional throughline (another underrated quality in a great album!) P.O.D. maintain across TFEOS, introducing themselves and who they are in the first tracks, introducing a feeling of darkness that builds in the third quarter, and slowly moving to a comforting, albeit, heavy catharsis through the last quarter to album-closer "Outkast," while never losing that sense of fun (and allowing the sounds they create a great deal of space...another important quality in an album!). With all this momentum, P.O.D. had nowhere to go but up.

1999 Atlantic
1. Greetings 1:29
2. Hollywood (featuring Lisa Papineau) 5:22
3. Southtown 4:08
4. Checkin' Levels 1:06
5. Rock the Party (Off the Hook) 3:24
6. Lie Down 5:09
7. Set Your Eyes to Zion 4:06
8. Lo Siento 0:33
9. Bullet the Blue Sky (originally written and performed by U2) (featuring Lisa Papineau) 5:18
10. Psalm 150 0:55
11. Image 3:32
12. Shouts 0:55
13. Tribal 4:26
14. Freestyle 3:57
15. Follow Me 3:43
16. Outkast (hidden track begins at 6:22) 9:33

Friday, February 10, 2017

Beginning Next Week: A Study on the Much-Misunderstood P.O.D.

Yes, THAT P.O.D. The not nu-metal band completely composed of minorities who grew up in an impoverished, crime-ridden area of San Diego, fronted by a reformed drug-dealer, who somehow got lumped in with a genre mainly associated with misogynist, white, upper middle class frat-boys.
The band who drew their roots from punk, metal, and reggae, but because they sometimes rapped while they rocked, were often spoken of in the same sentence as Limp Bizkit.
THAT P.O.D. I'm going to review all of their albums, starting with their major label debut.
Prepare to get educated...

There will also be an article about a video game system released at the same time as P.O.D.'s commercial peak, thrown in for good measure.
Happy February!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Plumb -- candycoatedwaterdrops


It's a road trip to Florida in the summer of 1999, and my cousin Adrian hands me a CD. As you can see, my cousins and I took a lot of road trips. "Dude, the first song on this new Plumb CD sounds like it could be the theme song from a James Bond movie." We throw it on. Spy guitar. The London Symphony Orchestra. An epic female voice singing about the world falling apart.
The song, "Late Great Planet Earth," from Plumb's sophomore album, candycoatedwaterdrops, does sound like the theme from a James Bond movie. In fact, it is as good or better of a James Bond song than Garbage's "The World Is Not Enough," released later that year, for the lousy James Bond film of the same name (Pierce Brosnan = great Bond saddled, outside one notable exception, with the worst scripts of the franchise).
It is, at this point, easy to get the wrong impression of Plumb's candycoatedwaterdrops. If you look at the cover, you see Plumb herself, looking cool, rebellious, and defiant. However, candycoatedwaterdrops is not an edgy album. It is a pop-rock album.
Pop-rock is not generally my favorite genre, however, Plumb (aka Tiffany Arbuckle) is an excellent songwriter, and this particular album finds her young and hungry. These songs are so well-written, I changed my intiial 8/10 review, which was biased against the genre, into a 9/10. These songs combine great hooks with excellent instrumentation and solid, sometimes thought-provoking lyrics. Musically, there's a great amount of variety from song to song. The Bond-esque, previously-mentioned first track, the wall of irresistible chorus-power of "Stranded," the straight-forward pop-rock of "Here With Me," "Phobic's" gentle minimalism, "Damaged's" electronic loops, the alt-country of the self-titled closer--this album visits plenty of musical locales, even if they aren't all near where Adrian described that first track.
I can't fault candycoatedwaterdrops other than to say that it doesn't necessarily break any molds, but that isn't such a big deal when the album does what it does so well.
Really, who can resist "Stranded." Not the cast of One Tree Hill, the best show featured in this Youtube video, comprised solely of clips from One Tree Hill.

1999 Essential
1. Late Great Planet Earth 3:56
2. Stranded 3:39
3. Here With Me 4:04
4. Lie Low 3:12
5. Phobic 4:29
6. God-Shaped Hole 3:50
7. Solace 2:56
8. Worlds Collide: A Fairy Tale 3:50
9. Damaged 3:56
10. Drugstore Jesus 4:33
11. CandyCoatedWaterDrops 5:25

Friday, February 03, 2017

A Plea for Purging -- The Life and Death Of...


In the winter of 2010, I lost my mother to the barrel of her loaded gun
Two weeks later my forgotten dad lost the battle of his lifelong suicidal run

He was dead to me years ago
But losing her was an eternal blow
I've spoke in the past of the broken
But now I really know

If there's one thing I've learned: we're all put here to die
So why jump your turn?
I'm living day by day
There's strange comfort in apathy
Lay cold and alone in the ground
Will it be paradise or will you burn?
This is all a gamble
Until it's your turn

Home is where the broken heart is

Son to none
No home but the roads I roam
Son to none
No home but the roads I roam

We're all brokenhearted

-Andy Atkins, A Plea for Purging, "My Song"

These lyrics sum up The Life and Death Of..., A Plea for Purging's final album. The band delve deeper into the down-tuned metal of their previous album, with the guitar even some how lower in tone than before, the drums pummeling, and Atkins bellowing his throat out. All the while, Atkins puts his heart on his sleeve, detailing a dark time in life, dealing with the death of his parents, and missing his hometown as he grinds himself to the bone on the road.
Atkins is a magnetic frontman. His deeply introspective lyrics always show a great amount of empathy, as even in the above song, which details personal events that would break anyone, he marginalizes himself, insisting that "We're all brokenhearted."
An album full of this sort of pain-filled honesty is best when it doesn't go on too long, and that is The Life and Death Of...'s key flaw. Guitarist, Blake Martin, provided sung vocals on several songs on the band's previous album, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Here, his voice is largely relegated to interludes, perhaps meant to allow the listener to recover from the heavy, soul-crushing tracks. However, these interludes instead drag out the album and throw off its pacing. I think it would be far better without them.
So in the end, this is a good, emotional album, populated by some of A Plea for Purging's greatest songs, but it just doesn't quite flow like The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

2011 Facedown Records
1. The Life 4:37
2. Music City 3:46
3. Heart of a Child (featuring Chad Ruhlig) 3:50
4. Miss Fortune 1:47
5. My Song (featuring Chadwick Johnson) 3:41
6. Skin and Bones 5:07
7. Room for the Dead 5:13
8. A Fight for Peace 4:40
9. Hell at Our Backs 1:41
10. Words Misread 4:32
11. Hands and Feet 5:39
12. Living the Dream 3:29
13. The Death (featuring Chad Urich) 5:04
14. The Setting Sun 2:25

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

A Plea for Purging -- The Marriage of Heaven and Hell


Not since golden-age Zao has a "Christian" metal band held the Christian church as accountable as a Plea for Purging do on their bludgeoning 2010 release, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
I admittedly grew up in a prosperity theology-centered cult, so I have quite an intimate knowledge of the institutions called out here--and honestly, I am being too general when I say "the Christian church." The Marriage of Heaven and Hell focuses its ire on prosperity gospel preachers who steal from their congregations on the false pretense that if those congregants give all their money to the preacher, God will reward them with Earthly blessings--namely, more money.  Evil, wicked men have been twisting the truth since it existed, so this isn't anything new--but this insidious false doctrine has creeped more and more into mainstream theology in recent decades.
A Plea for Purging aren't having it, and their Marriage of Heaven and Hell is a musically and lyrically brutal blast against prosperity theology, utilizing down-tuned riffs, crushing drums, and throat-blasting vocals. This style of heavy music came into vogue in the early 10's, but A Plea for Purging master that sound well-ahead of the crowd, and the pure, unadulterated anger behind the music keeps it fresh seven years later.
A few key touches also give this album its unique feel, including a genuinely scary vibe generated by created samples of fiery prosperity minister sermons, and freaky guitar drones. However, the most unexpected hero of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is melody. The band wait until track five, "The Fall," to employ sung vocals (as opposed to the screamed vocals found throughout), but when they suddenly hit, they're like another angle of the conversation that is cutting in at just the right time. From that point on, they occur fairly regularly, but always feel necessary exactly when they happen. Track nine, "Jealous Wings," even relies on them completely.
Overall, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is a terrifying record, the voice of judgement that rings out seconds before the apocalypse. The last ten seconds still send shivers down my spine (If there's something you hear right before demons rip off your skin, it's the last ten seconds of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell). Sadly, its message is still just as relevant seven years later, if not more so.
Also, this video is still the best.

2010 Facedown Records
1. The Eternal Female 3:31
2. Sick Silent America 4:43
3. Shiver 2:55
4. Golden Barriers 3:37
5. The Fall 3:45
6. And Weep (featuring Nate Click) 3:45
7. Trembling Hands 3:44
8. Finite 4:13
9. The Jealous Wings 4:16
10. The New Born Wonder 5:01

Friday, January 27, 2017

Plankeye -- Strange Exchange


When I am done with this review series (2019?), I'd like to write an entry titled, "The Most Underrated Christian Rock Albums of the Last 20 Years." I'd mention Brave Saint Saturn's little-heard 2003 space-rock concept album The Light of Things Hoped For. I'd list Newsboys' (who are essentially now a dance-pop band) greatly misunderstood and much ignored 1999 album of 70's/80's rock, Love Liberty Disco. I'd also add Plankeye's 2001 experimental-indie-rock album, Strange Exchange.
Plankeye are known for an energetic, punk-influenced alternative sound, particularly from their mid-90's work, when they were fronted by Scott Silletta. Silletta (along with the band's original drummer) left in the late 90's, before the remaining members recorded 1999's Relocation. That album featured the surprise hit "Goodbye," and then people just kind of forgot Plankeye existed. Sadly, in the modern age, many people have forgotten that many of the great 80's and 90's Christian Rock bands existed. However, Plankeye did contribute one full-length album of new material to the 21st century. That album, their last of original material, is Strange Exchange. For this endeavor, Plankeye's two remaining members, guitarist/vocalist Eric Balmer and bassist/vocalist Luis Garcia enlisted second guitarist, Kevin Poush, and drummer, Louie Ruiz. Then they got to work.
Honestly, before the release of Strange Exchange, I had kind of forgotten about Plankeye, myself. My conception of the band involved Silletta on vocals and Bill Clinton in office--this was a new millennium, and Plankeye existed in the old one. Then, one night in 2001, while calling in to the radio station where I would soon DJ, I won a pre-release copy of Plankeye's new album. As I mentioned, I wasn't even aware of Plankeye's continued existence, but as I was always ready for a new musical experience, I went to the cooperating store, flashed my ID, and got my CD. What came out of my car speakers several minutes later didn't sound like the Plankeye I remembered.
This sounded like the experimental college rock I listened to in my latter years of high school. More complex guitar lines, more varied effects on the guitars. Poetic lyrics. A rhythm section that valued space. A wide spectrum of emotion. A song that neared the ten minute mark and another one that hit six minutes. This wasn't the Plankeye of old. This was something entirely new.
This was something the Christian market was not and has possibly never been ready for. It's not hard to look at the secular market, and find popular rock bands who at some point went in the studio and just experimented, not caring about previous work or fan expectations, then came out with an excellent, non-definable piece of work. Radiohead did it just a year before Strange Exchange was released. The Beatles did it more than 30 years before. But a band in the Christian Rock market? It hadn't ever really happened. In 2001, though, Plankeye did it.
Strange Exchange is an incredible display of artistic and emotional expression. Co-frontmen Balmer and Garcia show little regard for the past, kicking things off with an upbeat, yet lyrically aggressive number, as Balmer assures, "This is the last piece of me you'll own." The band then dive into two deep, yet up-tempo meditations on life on Earth before unleashing the six-minute guitar storm, "Let Me Be Near You." This is then followed by an under two-minute acoustic song, a daring move, yet one that gives Strange Exchange an unpredictable dynamic range full of color, like the colors crashing into one another on the album cover. The next four songs continue to explore inventive guitar textures and rhythms. Garcia has always been an inventive bassist, and it's fun to pick out his clever lines throughout the album. Ruiz, as a drummer, brings an entirely new rhythmic feel to the band, his style more laid back and fill-reliant than that of punk-influenced former drummer, Adam Ferry. Through these penultimate four tracks, Plankeye builds to a more desperate emotional place, with Balmer intoning by track nine, "The Way of the Earth," "I don't want to live like this anymore/Just for the heartbeats that you feel/ Can't restrain what you think is real/ Takes just a moment then pretend/ The rest of your life you'll be faking it." This all builds to Strange Exchange's haunting, epic, eight-minute closer, "Untitled," a song of such staggering emotional weight and beauty, it is a crime that only a few thousand people have heard it. Indeed, if a popular rock band in the secular market had released this song in 2001, it would have been a cover-story on magazines. Instead, "Untitled" is relegated to languish at the end of its should be classic album, which sits in bargain bins and sells for one penny on Amazon.
"This is the night/of my daughter's last rites," sings Garcia in his throaty tenor, "And we are below/crushed by the waters of love." The lyrics for this song have never been released, and many in the latter half of the song are washed out by walls and walls of ghostly, wailing guitar lines, Garcia's own Earth-moving bass-line, and Ruiz's drum rolls. When the instruments take over halfway in, it is as if they have been handed over to spectral beings, as this kind of power can surely not have been wielded by humans. The emotional catharsis, the movement from life to death to ascendence has reduced me to tears numerous times, and I hope that, wherever they might be today, the four guys who recorded it can be secure in the fact that the people who actually have heard it were deeply moved.
Join us.

2001 BEC
1. This Is 4:12
2. The Meaning of It All 4:29
3. Chemicals and Sleep 4:15
4. Let Me Be Near You 5:59
5. My Wife 1:43
6. By Design 4:27
7. Remind 4:34
8. Bring It Down 3:44
9 The Way of the Earth 4:10
10. [Untitled Track] 8:00

Plankeye -- The One and Only


Man, I'm out of gas after those last two reviews. Let's be brief with this one.
Plankeye's Commonwealth is a classic album,  which sold a ton of copies, but a certain segment of the band's fanbase didn't appreciate its more somber tone. Plankeye responded to those fans with The One and Only, a lighter, sunnier album, featuring a more upbeat sound.
The One and Only's first half is brilliantly done, energetic rock. The opener, "Someday," shows the songwriting growth found on Commonwealth was not a fluke, with its opening harmonica line forever searing itself into the listener's memory. "How Much I Don't Know" features a bridge instrumental that blink-182 subsequently ripped off in essentially every song they recorded between 1997-2001 (and I say this as someone who likes blink-182). "Playground" shifts and changes a surprising amount of times before its excellent, gong-aided climax, and all in 2.5 minutes.
At the end of its first half, The One and Only, is easily staking its claim as both the best and the most fun and entertaining album Plankeye ever released. Then the sixth track, "One or the Other," a sluggish ballad, grinds things to a halt. Commonwealth's slower songs, and even this album's third track, "Fall Down," proved that a gentler Plankeye song can still keep the momentum going. "One or the Other" doesn't. It's five minutes of the air going out of the room.
While the next four tracks try to get things...back on track, they aren't quite to the level of the opening salvo. So in the end, The One and Only is a good, fun album, but it doesn't quite achieve the greatness its first half promises.
After The One and Only, Plankeye splintered, yet did not end. You can see a tension here between the band's "pop-punk" side, and its more indie, alternative stylings (recording three albums in three years probably didn't help the stress!). The "pop-punk" side, singer/guitarist, Scott Silletta formed a short-lived new band in that style called Fanmail (while the drummer left to pursue ministry). Guitarist, Eric Balmer, and bassist, Louis Garcia, continued on under the Plankeye name, and recorded two more full-length albums. The first, Relocation, features "Goodbye," perhaps the band's biggest hit, though the album itself didn't really do much for me, and I've never purchased it. The second, though...I'll get to that.

1997 BEC
1. Someday 2:31
2. How Much I Don't Know 3:19
3. Fall Down 3:11
4. Playground 2:36
5. It's Been So Very Long 2:59
6. One or the Other 5:09
7. Landmarks 2:40
8. Let's Try Again Tomorrow 3:31
9. Compromise 3:15
10. Sterling (runtime includes silence and hidden track) 16:52