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Us a Signal
Label: The Militia Group
Length: 12 tracks, 43:06
It seems that Brandtson's albums always strike me the same way. Initially I'm unmoved and fairly unimpressed but somehow I always keep listening and eventually get hooked to the point of enjoying the crap out of it. The last full-length Dial in Sounds is my favorite to date. The recent Death & Taxes EP was a decent snack between meals, but Send Us a Signal should be the stuff that Brandtson fans need to get their fill.
A listen to the intense rock of the album's first track "Who Are You Now?" may give the impression that this is a different Brandtson. In some ways it is, but as the album progresses there are enough moments that hearken back to the old days to please longtime fans and a new direction that some of the songs take which shows a lot of potential.
The old Brandtson sound surfaces a bit in songs like "Throwing Rocks Tonight," an upbeat indie pop delight. "Mexico" is a nice mix of that indie pop that the band did so well in the past with a new vocal approach that works wonders: "Everything makes more sense / Thank God we broke it off that night / Holding on to you is like playing with broken glass / I'm fighting off the memories and I'm living in the past." As always, relationships play a key part in the band's lyrics.
On the second track "Drawing a Line in the Sand," a new, softer side of Brandtson is revealed and by golly it's pretty good. This is only the introduction, though. The clincher comes in the song "Mercy Medical," a plea for help in the midst of a crisis. This plea for help reemerges late in the album on the song "Over and Out." The emotional core of the album rests on the song "Blindspot," a remake of the classic from the band's very first album. Here it's cleaned up a bit and sounds great. The honesty delivered in in a line like "You know me better than I know myself and I trust you more than I trust anyone else" is very moving.
The album's closing song "The Bottle and the Sea" features an acoustic guitar and a vocalist whose voice I have yet to identify, but it's definitely not one of the band members we are used to hearing. In an Eddie Vedder-inspired moment the vocalist sings, "I can't stop the bite / I've been going crazy / There's nowhere to run and I'm feeling so hazy."
And so despite early doubts, Brandtson has turned out another good, albeit different, release. These are songs that should fit well in upcoming live shows as the band continues to move forward and reinvent themselves. I promise I'll keep listening.
Trae Cadenhead 6/22/2004