The Revolution Smile
Above The Noise
After sadly overlooked alternative rockers Far broke up in 1998, guitarist Shaun Lopez disappeared from the scene for a while. Rumor had it that he’d been asked to play in Rival Schools with Quicksand’s Walter Schreifels, but had turned down the gig in order to focus on songwriting and growing out his own personal musical project rather than being part of a pre-existing collective again. A few years and a couple supporting band members later, we finally get to hear what he’s been up to as The Revolution Smile (TRS) unleash their debut, titled simply Above The Noise.
And now for the troublesome part. The album arrives courtesy of Fred Durst’s Flawless label. Seeing that Durst had signed TRS and was doing A&R for the effort scared the shit out of me, and my fears were confirmed upon hearing the band’s first single, the horrible tough guy chugga-chugga crunch of “Bone Thrower.” Shaun, what the hell happened? Where are the memorable melodies? What’s with the Limp Bizkit-esque posturing?
After that experience, I wasn’t entirely sure why I asked for a copy of the CD to review. But I did. And actually, I’m relatively happy about that decision, because the rest of the CD seems more or less free of the A&R influence that dominates the abovementioned cut. In other words, it doesn’t suck as badly. Whew. I honestly wish I could find a way to scratch “Bone Thrower” (which also happens to be the first track) off the disc entirely, using a scalpel, an x-acto knife, or some other sharp cutting instrument. Maybe even a magic marker would do the trick? There’s no doubt about it: Above The Noise would benefit from my own special edition, sans “Bone Thrower.” The negative weight of this track alone drags down the rest of the surprisingly decent album to a negative score, just because of the effort I need to exert pushing the skip button every time I pop the it in.
Of course, saying that the rest of the album is decent doesn’t mean that it’s absolutely fantastic. Although Lopez manages to embody a lot of the sound that made Far so great, TRS doesn’t exactly break any new ground and instead comes off as a lukewarm encore that will appease the majority of Far fans but leave many wanting a proper reunion. Or at least some guest vocals. In short, Above The Noise sounds like a continuation of where Lopez and pals left off with Far’s brilliant 1998 effort Water and Solutions — with the same general sort of songwriting, the same general sound. But it’s missing the equally well-crafted contributions from the outfit’s other members, most notably the great vocal abilities of frontman Jonah Matranga, who is currently busy doing his emo thing (quite well, might I add) in Onelinedrawing and New End Original. Lopez has taken the opportunity here to step up not only to write the songs themselves but also to pen lyrics and perform the vocal duties. And, although he’s not bad, he’s certainly not Jonah. The lyrics are downright miserable for the most part (“I’m at best when I’m a mess / I cannot wait to see you undress”), but his singing isn’t bad at all, sounding more than a little bit like Filter’s Richard Patrick. His delivery is strong and the vocal melodies in the choruses are particularly well-crafted and infectious (Durst should take some notes), but it’s nothing that will blow you out of your chair.
TRS basically sounds like a mixture of Water And Solutions-era Far and some slightly more modern material from the Foo Fighters, Filter and other mainstream alterna-rockers whose names start with the letter “F.” Definitely worth a listen if you’re into that sort of thing, and probably deserving of some radio or MTV attention too. If Durst & Company can get off their asses and promote TRS to the right audience (not the kind of audience that digs The Bizkit and Puddle of Mudd, that’s for sure) they might have a pretty big album on their hands, as tracks like “Payday,” “The Gift” and “Indiana Feeling” are great rock-radio numbers just waiting to be heard and hummed along to on highways all over America. TRS is rock music, and pretty good rock music at that. So Flawless, please, take a hint and stop pushing the regurgitated metal garbage of “Bone Thrower” and let Mr. Lopez and his new friends shine for what they’re good at: rock.