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Monday, January 23, 2017

Plankeye -- Spark


Headed to Youth Camp, from Baton Rouge to the rural hills near Anniston, Alabama, the summer of 1996. About to start high school. Riding with the guys. My cousin Rhett pops in a mix-CD. This song plays:

The van then breaks into an impromptu mosh pit, and I end up two seats forward. Awesome. When we get back to Baton Rouge a week later, I ask Rhett, my music guru, what band created that awesome song.
Actually, I am skipping a very eventful week, that I can only sum up with this quick past-tense tidbit: I bunked next to one of my best friends, Simpson Borens. The two guys above us were brothers from some hill-town near the campsite. One of the brothers wore the same shirt everyday: it featured a Confederate flag, backed by lightning bolts. Shirt-boy loved to ask Simpson if he found the shirt offensive. Simpson is not white. I have never been back to Anniston, Alabama.
Anyway, once we get back to a place where people at least have the decency to hide their racism, I ask Rhett about the song, and he tells me it's "Open House," by Plankeye. I immediately check out this "Plankeye."
Turns out the song, "Open House," is found on Plankeye's 1995 album Spark, their first album of new material for Tooth & Nail Records, after T&N re-released the band's indie debut, Spill. Spill is a very raw and unpolished album, too unpolished for me, and it's one of two Plankeye LP's I won't be reviewing here. Rhett let me borrow Spark, and I burned it to a cassette tape. One time I was listening to it in the car with my cousin on the other side of the family, Amber, and she said it sounded like Goo Goo Dolls. Goo Goo Dolls are my least favorite band of all-time, solely due to the facts that the song "Iris," was the most played song of 1998 to the point that if I ever hear it again, I may kill someone, and also because of the guitarist's stupid pink hair. Anyway, after that comment, I didn't listen to Spark again for a while, but that is also due to the fact that of all the Plankeye albums I own (four out of six), Spark is by far my least favorite.
Listening to it now, it's more clear why. The punk energy of "Open House" and closer, "So Far from Home," are still refreshing. However, the rest of Spark doesn't really sound like that. Wait, should I back up again and explain who Planeye is? Nah, full speed ahead!
Spark finds a young rock band trying to figure out just who Plankeye is, and a vocalist who is also trying to figure himself out as a singer, as well. Spark's best moments are the high energy ones I've previously mentioned. There are other moments the band finds gold, too. The Jeff Buckley-esque trippy bridge of "Boy," is certainly a winner. However, too much of Spark drags. There's a grunge aspect to some of the songs that just doesn't hold attention. Unfortunately, the vocalist, Scott Silletta, tries to channel Pearl Jam frontman, Eddie Vedder, in these moments, and it just feels like posing. However, at other moments, particularly in the more amped-up tracks, he sounds like he is forging his own identity, and it works. Oh yeah, and if you are a Gen X-er and attended any alternative rock shows in the 90's, particularly any at a coffee house, this album features a moment that will surely make you cringe: the moment when the guitarist laboriously switches his electric out for an acoustic, and the drummer slides over from his kit to a djembe. Thankfully, after this album, Plankeye would never do that again.
I hate slagging on the work of a band I really like, especially when people are so quick to forget their contributions to the musical landscape. Fortunately, there's a lot more to Plankeye's discography than Spark.

1995 Tooth & Nail Records
1. It's a Perfect Day Jerome 3:04
2. Open House 3:24
3. Three Fold Chord 3:27
4. Drive 3:00
5. Boy 4:16
6. Tonight 2:47
7. Wings to Fly 4:38
8. Let Me Go 3:39
9. Questions 5:58
10. Dichotomy 3:30
11. So Far from Home 3:43

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