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Milemarker: Satanic VersusSatanic Versus (2002)
Jade Tree Records
Reviewer Rating: 2
Contributed by: HamishHamish
(others by this writer | submit your own)
I got hooked on Milemarker after last year’s excellent “Anaesthetic.” While I’m not familiar with their earlier material, which I’m told sounds very different, I fell in love with that particular release. Epic songs, intelligent lyrics, driving guitars, incredible drumming, male/female alternating vocals, very cool keyboards and a great set at Krazy Fest made the band a favorite with me. So when I saw “Satanic Versus” at Amoeba, I snatched it up and brought it home. What I heard disappointed me.
On “Anaesthetic,” the band had a very keyboard heavy sound, almost new-wavish, but still with a punk rock edge. And unlike some other keyboard oriented post-punk bands like The Faint that sound very retro, Milemarker’s sound is very progressive. On “Satanic Versus,” they take the dance influence to the next level, and the results are under whelming. The first 3 tracks were recorded with Steve Albini, a man who needs no introduction. “Join Our Party” and “The Banner to the Sick” stick to a much more dancey sound than anything the band has done before. The sound revolves almost entirely around the keyboards, with very little guitar or bass. OK, Milemarker has progressed beyond guitar-heavy music, I can deal with that. But you have to replace the guitars with memorable keyboard melodies. “Join Our Party” succeeds with this using a very driving keyboard riff, “The Banner to the Sick” does not. There’s some cool guitar noodling at the end, but it doesn’t save the song. More annoying still are the vocal effects the band uses, the ones you heard on those dance songs that get played a lot in clubs and stuff. OK, I’m not too terribly familiar with dance music aside from those annoying Daft Punk songs I hear on the radio from time to time, but damn, those vocal effects are irritating. And Milemarker breaks them out in spades here. “New Lexicon” is the only track that utilizes them to good effect. They sound so distorted that they’re impossible to understand, but it produces a very cool sound. The band also goes back to full rock mode with this song. There’s an excellent interplay between the guitar and the keyboards, as well as a lot of cool sounds that just come out of left field. By far my favorite track on the EP.
The other three songs are home recording by the band, though I can’t really hear any difference (in terms of production) between these and the Albini produced songs. “Idle Hands” suffers from the same problems as “The Banner to the Sick,” not enough interesting melodies. There are some nifty keyboard sounds, but that’s evened out by the awful chorus, and the silly vocal effects continue. “Lost the Thoughts but Kept the Skin” is another re-recording, this time of a song from “Anaesthetic.” I really wish they had left the song alone. I loved the original, but this one doesn’t do anything for me, droning on for nearly 11 minutes. I have no problem with long songs, but they have to have variation or there’s no point in having them be so long. This particular track just goes on and on, without any real changes until some cool keyboard and guitar parts at the very end. But I doubt most people will get that far as the majority of the song is a chore to listen to. I normally like Roby’s vocals, but here she just sounds monotone (this is the only part of the EP where she does lead vocals). The album closes off with the title track. It’s an instrumental, probably a jam. However, it doesn’t really do anything. 6 minutes and 40 seconds and nothing really happens. Plenty of nifty keyboard sounds and effects, but it’s more of a novelty than an actually enjoyable song.
I gotta give Milemarker credit for trying new things and continuing to be progressive. But sometimes experiments fail. There are a few cool moments, and the band produces some really interesting and innovative sounds from their keyboards and guitars. But things just don’t gel well together. 6 songs, only 2 of them really grab my attention. It's not a total loss, as the other 4 songs still have a few nice bits. And it is 33 minutes long, which is a lot for an EP, so you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck. And it’s an enhanced CD with live videos and rough mixes of the songs that you can remix yourself. Respect to the band for giving the fans so many extras. So I have faith in Milemarker. This is only an EP. I’m sure they’re just testing out their new sound, and hopefully they’ll have perfected it by the time they make their next album. But for now, I just can’t get into “Satanic Versus.” That said, several of my friends really like it, so take that for what it’s worth. However, I’m going to have to recommend you check out “Anaesthetic” and leave this one alone.
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