Cover, Protective, Individual
Cover, Protective, Individual is a pretty drastic turn for Less, the San Francisco trio that released the psychedelic metal record Piano Smile Wire back in 2001. On their debut disc, Less allowed post-grunge to make out with progressive metal. This time around, the curiously named Foot and friends have toned down their more outgoing elements to create an even darker, more sinister affair; sweeping and droning textures have replaced the metal attack of its predecessor. There is little traditional rock drumming on the disc; the percussion is moody, invocative and careful. The vocals, too, are buried deep in the mix, and no single part really sticks out. The whole thing reads like some big painting where every fragment is equally central to the general motif, giving no clear indication on what to look for as the main theme.
Upon first listen, then, Cover, Protective, Individual is a bewildering record, the music translating as chants as much as conventional rock music, sounding like an Alice in Chains-infused Tool covered by acoustic Led Zeppelin. It starts to make sense after a while, though; the recurring guitar lines, the anguished vocals, the repeated patterns gain meaning when regarded as a whole. Certainly, Less is no single band. This album is best understood as an entity, rather than a collection of tracks.
It’s a challenging album — annoying even — in the way it sticks to the idea of never rushing things and taking its time. But the album is all the more impressive for going through with it. Less are still too idiosyncratic to appeal to a wider audience, and they must not have been looking for hit singles when they cooked up this one. But for those willing to give the album the time and the energy, Cover, Protective, Individual could prove to be a true gem. Not for the impatient listener, but anyone else could do worse than give this one a chance.