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Blue in the Face
Artist:  Doubledrive
Label: Roadrunner
Length: 11 tracks, 45.39 minutes
 
My wife often tells me off for leaving the radio switched on loud when I park our car at home, which inevitably means that when she next turns the ignition her ears are blasted with something brutal from one of the alternative or rock stations I prefer to her more classical tastes. Well, I did it to myself the other day. As the engine burst into life, the following lyrics exploded around me:  
Jesus Christ and heaven’s always been there
Gotta believe in what’s real. Gotta go with what you know. 
For a second I thought I was on the Christian radio station, but then discovered that it was definitely tuned to the secular, hard rock channel. As the song progressed with equally impressive spiritually aware words, I started to wonder, who the heck was this band? Turns out they’re called Doubledrive and the song was “Imprint” from their second album Blue in the Face. They aren’t a Christian band by any stretch of explanation, but do the old thank-God-in-the-liner-notes thing, so clearly I was interested in the lyrical content of these eleven tight, hard rocking tracks and wondered about the motivation behind them. 
 
The opener “11:59” is an urgent call to taking responsibility in life (“Procrastination’s not happening / So why put off today what you can do in a minute? / Maybe it’s tomorrow right now”); a precursor to the superb, memorable radio friendly single that I mentioned above. “Imprint” is a magnificently positive song, reportedly a reflection on a friend’s terminal illness, with a chorus that recognizes the import of death as a motivator for running the race of life well.  
One step, I make an imprint
Two steps is commitment
Three steps, I’m not done yet
Draw my other leg up, and the pace is set 
The great hooks continue into the next track, “Hollowbody,” which also looks at the tragedy of life lived in spiritual vacuum: 
I’m not afraid to let you know / You’ve got a hollow body 
What does it take to fill the void? / Another hollow body? 
After such a great opening, the next track ”Million People” is an excessively maudlin ballad to a lost love that makes the album almost grind to a halt. From there on, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d bought a top-40 hard rock compilation album, as the songs and vocals become derivative, mimicking every other rock band sound from Nickelback to Creed to Collective Soul to Days of the New to Our Lady Peace to Puddle of Mudd. That’s not to say the songs aren’t bad; great hooks abound, (“Inside Out” is a dazzler) but the impression is ultimately of a band that’s running with the pack rather than leading it. Lyrically, it becomes overly dependent on cliché and ordinary simile without going any deeper than it did in the first quarter of the album.
 
Apparently Doubledrive were unhappy with the level of support from their label for their first album 1000 Yard Stare (which I might add, also weighed in heavily on the spiritual content, with tracks like “Belief System,” “Hell,” “Dressed in Light,” and “Sacrifice”) so were in a promotional wilderness for several years before the Roadrunner label picked them up. (Apparently this extensive time of “holding their breath” between labels was the inspiration for the album title Blue in the Face.) If things had transpired differently imagine they could have been as big as some of those similar sounding bands are now (especially label mates Nickelback.) As it is, they may just become an “also-ran”.  
 
“Imprint,” while a fantastic song, may not be enough to keep Blue in the Face in my CD player for very long. However, if you want to hear a well-produced, reliable hard rock album, with more positive than usual lyrics, Doubledrive will fit the bill. It’s good for what it is, but if you’re a real hard rock aficionado looking for at least a dash of originality in a CD purchase, don’t expect this to add anything fresh to your collection. 
 
Brendan Boughen 10/22/2003

   
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