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Is the New Now
Artist: Denison Marrs
Label: Floodgate Records (2002)
Length: 10 Tracks (48:09 minutes)
The ability of any artist to call their musical influences clearly to the mind of the listener without simultaneously hurling down the slippery slope of outright plagiarism is indeed a rare one. For every band like, say, REM or the Gin Blossoms that has managed to harness the defining essence of their musical inspirations (in this case, the Byrds, among others) and translate that quantity into something decidedly unique and modern-sounding exists untold hundreds of lesser outfits who stop at appropriating only the most obvious aspects of their musical forefathers without adding anything new to the equation. Fortunately for all involved, the four lads of Florida's Denison Marrs have stationed themselves squarely in the former camp for their inspiring second effort, Then Is the New Now.
"What Life Has" begins the proceedings in fine form, bursting from the musical egg with an emo- and grunge-tinged take on '80s alterna-pop. "You Feel Like" and "The Real Ones" function as the perfect follow-ons; the latter is a best-of-album slice of modern pop with a soaring instrumental section that stands in engaging contrast to its incisive look at relational uncertainty. "This Must Be Love" is a lilting romantic ode calling to mind the melodic, sugar-sweet confections of classic '70s power popsters like Badfinger and the Raspberries. And the reworked "Send Me an Angel" is a thoroughly revved-up and rocking relative to the synth-driven original from the early '80s new wave movement.
All in all, the band possesses an unyielding vitality and solid appreciation of timing and melodic content that carry New Now project grandly from start to finish. Equally impressive is the quartet's ability to portray matters of everyday life realistically without coming across as either gratuitous or morose. Neither of these are small tasks, and the sum of them helps to elevate the Floridian foursome above the better percentage of its peers. Only time will tell whether the DM collective will be able to maintain its current level of artistic merit and success over the long haul. As it stands, though, the band's sophomore release ensures that both current fans and newcomers alike will be able to pass the time between then and now most enjoyably.
Bert Gangl 7/29/2003
Okay, the first thing I have to admit is that I love the name of this band--Denison Marrs. I am intrigued as to how they acquired it. Could it be the name of some obscure hero from a 1950s Roger Corman sci-fi flick? Or perhaps it is some turn of the century dead poet of whose prose I the inerudite philistine possess no knowledge? I am sure somebody could provide me with the answer, but I prefer to let the mystery remain. It is more fun that way
Following a successful run in the indy circuit, Denison Marrs hits the big time with their first national release entitled Then Is the New Now. The keyword for this album is big. Featuring a sound that pulls out all the stops, this foursome has unleashed a powerful barrage of modern rock that is best experienced with the stereo turned up and the car windows rolled down. As expected, this group relies heavily on guitar power chords and occasional spurts of reverb, echoes, and distortion. Nowhere on the record is this more evident than in their closing number "Psalm 148." Clocking in at over seven minutes, this tune is a majestic rendition of a literary Biblical masterpiece, complete with wailing guitar solo. Although Denison Marrs specializes in fairly straight-forward modern rock, they also dabble a little with the early '80s sound in their cover of Real Life's "Send Me an Angel."
Ironically, the premiere cut happens to be the album's only mellow tune. "Keeping It Cool" is a elegant musing of the songwriter's desire to have been with Christ to observe how He dealt with people and the problems that came with them. Although the band cannot resist turning up the tempo a few notches at the end, the essential beauty of the song and its message are left largely intact.
Speaking of big, this would be a good time to mention lead singer Eric Collins. Often compared to The Cure's Robert Smith, Collins has the pipes to match the music going on behind him. Collins has the kind of voice that is distinctive, if not a little over-dramatic at times. He makes his presence felt right out of the gate on the album's first song "What Life Has," particularly on the chorus. Collins also happens to be the band's songwriter. The running theme of Then Is the New Now is the pain of failing and the joy of redemption. Impressively, Collins manages to address topics of suffering without resorting to "the why me" syndrome. This is extremely evident in the song "You Feel Like:"
I live down here on my knees and face/In the Batman-and-Robinishly titled "POW!," even as he laments of the tendency to repeat mistakes, Collins thanks God "for the chance to regret." This is not to say he is wallowing in his misery; rather, his lyrics speak of the reality of our frail human condition and the constant hope of grace.
While I enjoyed listening to this album and am thoroughly impressed with the poetic ability of Collins, I must confess Then Is the New Now_did not stand out in the way I really hoped it would. My conclusion is that although the band has a great sound and a vocalist who perfectly fits on every level, the final product does set itself apart from what already passes as good rock and roll. On the upside, with some experimentation, Denison Marrs could indeed evolve into something great. If you are like good, solid modern rock, Then Is the New Now is a must purchase.
Noel Lloyd 8/29/2003