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The Western Front: Go To Your Desire; Don't Hang Around HereGo To Your Desire; Don't Hang Around Here (2004)
Reviewer Rating: 3.5
Contributed by: greg0rbgreg0rb
(others by this writer | submit your own)
Do you know where Jesup, Iowa is? I didn’t either, and I’ve been through Iowa quite a bit. It turns out it’s only about and hour northwest of Iowa City. Three young guys hailing from the town of 2,200 people have put together quite a well thought out album.
The Western Front could be summed up as sounding like The Ataris and at other times like Dashboard Confessional. But that wouldn’t be fair. There is much more thought put into this album than all the cookie cutter bands trying to sound like the mentioned bands- just start with the title. Go to Your Desire; Don’t Hang Around Here is taken from Big Sur by Kerouac, and these well-read guys named the majority of their songs from quotes by the author, and some others include Thoreau and movies. The song lyrics are personal but in some way relate to the title.
As for the sound of the band, their singer does sound a bit like Kris from the Ataris meets Chris Carrabba. And they do rock the pop punk Ataris-style and the acoustic rock Dashboard-style. But they also have a bit of Bright Eyes in them with the amount of instruments found here, including mandolin, trumpet, piano, organ, and synthesizer. The one thing they don’t have is real drums. But I was almost fooled, because the sampled drums are pretty well done, fills and all. It alternated between those and more drum-machine sounding beats. Of course being a drummer I would prefer real drums, but these do the job ok, though sound a tad corny at times. Maybe it’s hard to find a good drummer in a town that small. Another Bright Eyes element would be the whispered vocals, which are quite frequent.
This long album (55 minutes) is very well put together with segues put in negative seconds before almost every track. They range from fragmented acoustic songs with vocals to a jazzy instrumental with dissonant trumpet, making the album seem almost like it has twenty songs instead of twelve. With all these bits it’s harder to pick out the hits. There are just a lot of surprises, like at the end of the Dashboard-esque “The Lock was Broken” it suddenly shifts gears into a completely different sounding part, a Ben Folds Five style piano rocker with trumpet hits over top to finish…and then it goes into the segue. An interesting moment amid the pop punk overview would be the country twang thanks to sliding guitars in the middle of “The World Is But a Canvas to the Imagination” a song which later contains a rocking organ solo. Another moment would be the crazy techno beat in the middle of “Youth of Ages. An American Sailor” and the other cool drum machine bits in “Merry Christmas, You Old Building and Loan.” Also important is that while most of the tracks were upbeat, acoustic or not, there was still diversity, especially in the sweet guitar ballad “Miss, Would You Like to Use My Raincoat as a Pillow?” and the piano driven ballad “Thomas Paine.” The downside would be that while they have a lot of cool stuff in here, the overall songwriting is not incredibly original, and songs’ melodies blended together leaving mostly the instrumentation to differentiate them.
While this isn’t my top choice for listening material, I give a lot of credit (and review points) to this band for the following: this release is completely DIY and it is not noticeable in the least, from the great artwork to the solid production; there is a lot of thought put into this, it is not a spit-out pop punk album; and the scope of the album as a single entity, all while being a debut album. If you like any of the above mentioned bands or reading Kerouac, I would recommend this album to you. A few years, one real drummer, and some label support later, The Western Front may make Jesup the next hyped-up middle-of-nowhere town after Omaha.
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