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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: The American Radio
Label: Visible Media Group (2006)
When it comes to walking the walk, Ken Steorts certainly practices what he preaches. Since 2000, Steorts has busily spent the lion’s share of his time training up the next generation of Christian artists at the Memphis-based Visible School Music & Worship Arts College. A closer look at the 1996-1999 section of his résumé , though, reveals a stint as guitar player for Christian hard rockers Skillet – one of only a handful of groups in existence who can claim both Dove and Grammy nominations, sales of a quarter million units and a spread in Hit Parader Magazine among their list of accomplishments.
It was under Steorts’ watchful tutelage that Rich Riegel and three of his cohorts formed the Visible School’s first bona fide rock band, The American Radio, as a part of a class project. Returning to the music scene after a year and a half break, the quartet’s first new record in four years indicates that the tuition money was indeed well spent. The album opener, “Satellite,” leaps from the proverbial grooves full of terse, ringing guitars, passionate vocals and a garage rock sensibility sure to prick the ears of all but the most stoic of hearers. Acting as yin to that track’s yang, the superbly sublime “One Face in a Million” sports a cleaner guitar texture and slightly more subdued vocal attack. “Don’t Roll Your Eyes at Me” contributes a sunny sliver of fine Beatlesque pop to the proceedings while “Grass Is Greener” tenders a slightly dissonant, yet no less pleasant, bit of full-bodied modern pop.
The energy level does wane sporadically and Riegel’s vocals occasionally miss their intended mark. That said, the Radio cooperative’s careful attention to melody and dynamics far and away make up for any such shortcomings. Likewise, its willingness to experiment musically ensures that the new EP should appeal to those in both the indie and Top 40 crowds. Perhaps most remarkably, Riegel and his mates opt for subtlety and restraint when they best serve a given song rather than playing each cut at full intensity and volume – a rare and admirable trait, particularly for such a young group. A sleeper of sorts, the skillfully-constructed Listen EP reveals its treasures gradually over time, offering something new to appreciate with each successive spin.
Bert Gangl (03.31.07)