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Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Juliana Theory -- Love

 photo 220px-Juliana_Theory_Love_zpsb07e4596.jpg

Few bands deserved major label exposure as much as the Juliana Theory did in 2003. The band had put in grueling touring hours, and had released some truly stellar work on indie label, Tooth & Nail Records. Their time in the sun had arrived. Unfortunately...The Juliana Theory's Epic Record's debut album, Love, falls prey to just about every pratfall posed by a major label jump. That previous sentence fell prey to the alliteration monster.
Over-indulgence: At fourteen songs, and a full-hour, this album better well justify its existence. With most of its runtime filled with like-sounding, mid-tempo songs, Love does not.
Trading polish and technicality for feeling: The Juliana Theory traded drummers for Love, and the new drummer is technically far better than their previous one. In fact, every musician in the band is more accomplished on Love than ever before. Better doesn't necessarily mean "better," though. The band are now skilled enough to play a more generic radio rock sound, which is far less interesting and far more monotonous than the more beat-heavy, post-punk sound of their previous work. The album's smoother production, along with this more radio-friendly style means less diversity.
Joylessly re-tread a previous song: The sped-up, unnecessary re-make of previous album Emotion Is Dead's "Into the Dark" makes an already bloated album even longer. Its inclusion is no benefit to Love. Another band who also released a (in my opinion) disappointing major label debut later that year did the same thing.
Biting off a bigger concept than the band can chew: Love's final track, "Everything," repeats the phrase "love is everything" over and over again like the idea is so deep, no one has ever thought about it before. Actually, though, a lot of people have thought about it before. The larger stage has caused the band to grow more ponderous, and this is not a strength. Titling your major label debut Love is like asking people to hate you. Lyrics like "You're a jewel to sparkle around my neck/the fragrant scent of morning I cannot forgot" just add fuel to the fire. Being soulessly ironic is no good, but going so far in the opposite direction to naseously rotten cheese is just as bad.
Alright, I'll quit beating an already long dead horse. This album was a disappointment, and it took the band nowhere. After this, they came out with one more release(which I've never heard, and probably should), then broke up. Frontman, Brett Detar, grew a birdhouse-worthy beard and started making folk music or something--pretty much what every frontman of his generation did when their bands dissolved. He also got into film composing, though, something I don't think any of the other frontmen of his generation did. This helps to prove Detar is a man of many musical talents. He played guitar on one of the most revered metal albums in recent memory, put out some excellent rock albums with The Juliana Theory, embarked on a solo career different from everything he did before, then scored a film that has grossed more than 100 million dollars worldwide. With this kind of pedigree behind its central mind, Love is not a complete wash. It has its moments.
Moments: The one two punch of the aggressive "Bring It Low" with the poppier "Do You Believe Me?" segues excellently into album standout, "Shell of a Man." The song stands out far above its peers, focusing on a strong beat, unique musicianship, and an excellent piano lead. The extended piano outro (one of the few times Love actually takes a breath) is beautiful, and reminds me of a video game I was playing at the exact same point in history.

Metroid Prime rules.
"White Days" also stands out from the pack, containing a hard-to-identify, wistful beauty. "Trance" contains an excellently agressive outro. "In Conversation" is a lot of fun. Plus, my four-year old thinks the album is pretty good, so for all I know, my opinion could be completely off base. As it stands, though, Love is only slightly above average--not terrible, but nothing special in the discography of a band who was much, much better than much better that I suspect these songs must have contained a lot more pop in a live setting. With that said, I miss you, Juliana Theory.

2003 Epic
1. Bring It Low 2:48
2. Do You Believe Me? 4:29
3. Shell of a Man 5:41
4. Repeating, Repeating 4:36
5. Congratulations 3:33
6. Jewel to Sparkle 3:44
7. White Days 4:27
8. The Hardest Things 3:45
9. DTM 4:00
10. Trance 4:33
11. In Conversation 5:04
12. Into the Dark 4:10
13. As It Stands 2:17
14. Everything 6:15

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