Music Reviews

Year Of The Rabbit

Year Of The Rabbit


Year Of The Rabbit is the latest musical venture of multi-instrumentalist Ken Andrews, formerly responsible for the spacey alternative rock of Failure in the ’90s and perhaps best known these days for his increasingly valuable talents as a producer/mixer for such acts as A Perfect Circle, Tenacious D, Creeper Lagoon and Blinker The Star. Along for the ride this time are recruits Tim Dow (Shiner) and Jeff Garber (Castor, National Skyline).

For those of us not keeping track, Andrews’ last project, On, was a largely solo affair which found him dressing up his pop-rock sensibilities with industrial/synth elements, the result of which came off sounding like a slightly more mellow version of God Lives Underwater or even Nine Inch Nails, if Trent Reznor had spent his formative years developing a Ketamine habit. It was a good solid effort, but unfortunately never really got the attention it deserved.

In the wake of that, it seems that Andrews has abandoned (at least temporarily) some of these characteristics to refocus on a more straightforward rock-oriented sound. Three minutes into Year Of The Rabbit’s eponymous debut, I realize that I’ve heard this all before. It’s the post-grunge ghost of Failure, resurrected, and infused with greater amounts of radio-friendly pop for wide-spread consumption. This fact, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing necessarily. In fact, I’d personally love to hear a proper Failure reunion album. But without Greg Edwards (currently of Autolux) involved, it’s just not the same.

Year of the Rabbit suffers from two major problems. First, the sound feels somewhat dated. It contains many of the elements that made Failure great, but seems to be missing that special something that makes it feel truly timeless. I can’t even describe exactly why it is that I feel that way, I just do. Of course, that’s not to say that it’s bad, really, or that there aren’t any rewarding moments. Many of the songs are decent radio-friendly nuggets that could do quite well, given the right promotion. There’s just something about the music here that makes me think there would have been a better chance of that happening were it recorded 10 years ago in the height of the post-Nirvana alt-rock boom.

The second, and larger, problem is that the majority of YOTR comes off as more than a little empty, emotionless, boring even. “Let It Go” is a prime example of this. Two minutes into the track my first time through, I’m already hitting the skip button. And I feel bad about doing that, I honestly do. It’s just missing the appropriate level of depth, or heart, or that something… that special something; something that I would have expected to find here, something that I know these guys are capable of delivering. The whole album feels effortless, like a semester project they turned in early.

However, despite the album’s problems, the band repeatedly proves that they know how to craft a catchy hook or two, particularly in the choruses of songs like “Hunted,” “Lie Down” and the nice little acoustic number “Hold Me Up.” And as expected, the production quality here is top-notch, once again illustrating Andrews’ adeptness at the fine art of knob-twiddling. Based on the strength of these elements and the past accomplishments of this group as a whole, I have to believe that the Rabitteers are capable of more than we see here. Next time around, hopefully.

Year of the Rabbit:

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