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Desa: Year in a Red RoomYear in a Red Room (2003)
Reviewer Rating: 4.5
This is DESA's new CD. Quick back story, there was this band called Link 80, they were Ska-Core, and from the east bay. After their original singer died (the superb Nick Traina), they shuffled through a vocalist or 2 before getting one Ryan Noble, they did a CD "The Struggle Continues" and a few tours. The band was about 7 years old, and they needed a break. One member, Steve B, left to tour with the RxBandits and seems to be content playing there, and the other members locked themselves into their practice space for a year (which happens to be red, get it?), and started working on new material, without the constraints of writing material for Link 80.
I know, half of you don't care, and are waiting for the review. So, what kind of music is this? I would describe it as indie-post hardcore-rock, with a bit of emo thrown in for good measure. Yes, I said the "e" word, but don't go away yet.
This album follows their 4 track EP "Demonstrates Birth" and all those songs appear, in their re-recorded glory on this disc. A few of them are available for download on MP3.com. This cd has 12 tracks, 1 of them being acoustic. Gone are the ska guitar riffs and ska bass riffs. The bass is for the most part, more simplistic, with more root note patterns and fills, although Barry does a good job holding down the low end, and playing appropriately for the feel of each song (ie, some songs he goes more complicated, and some he stays simple). With the addition of a dedicated second guitar player, the guitar parts become more complicated and layer well with each other. Both Adam and Aaron share lead guitar duties at different parts, which I suppose pretains more to their live show duties than to the recording.
What I find interesting about the CD is that there is a surprising lack of choruses. Well, in the traditional sense that is. There are riffs inbetween what I guess is the verse, but the lyrics rarely repeat, save for a few of the songs ("Homicide At The Fountain Of Youth," and "Knives to the Brain," "Note Says Thanx" come to mind for those with discernable chorus'). Speaking of the lyrics, they're more abstract than those of Link 80....almost in a Chris Conley way, almost. Point is the songs don't follow a set structure (ie intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/outro), its not preform rock.
My favorite track is "Knives to the Brain" the aforementioned acoustic track. Although admittedly, it may remind some of you of a Dashboard Confessional song. It would not be accurate to say however, that the rest of the album follows this trend. On the contrary, on the rest of the album, the band rocks out pretty hard. It has a little hardcore flavor (including background screams courtesy of guitar player Adam D that fit amazingly well, better than most bands with the backup screamer ::cough::TBS::cough::), some cool guitar solos, and solid drum work. The album was produced pretty well, and pretty bare bones, no multiple overdubs here, just a few added bonuses here and there (the ringing alarm clock on "Alarm Clock Screams," keyboards for a few seconds here and there, etc).
I guess DESA is somewhat of a side project, because I hear the guys still plan to cut another Link 80 album. And it's definetly not Link 80, so don't expect that. I for one, really dig it, it's not average run of the mill rock. Some people I've talked to are less than in favor of the vocals, and indeed, Ryan's singing isn't horrible similar to the last Link 80 album. He doesn't sing with the raw guttural voice, he sings more melodically, but I think it fits really well, but others might disagree. Anyways, since reviews are only one persons opinion, and not to be taken as the gospel truth, I give it a 9. I think some of the songs play better live, which could've been captured in the studio better, but maybe that was intentional, I don't really know. But a very cool departure for the norm for these guys. Download the EP versions of 3 songs at: mp3.com/DESA and decide for yourself.
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