Simply put, Gatsbys American Dream is so fed up with the music industry that they've been inspired to almost completely forego their lyrical modus operandi on this, their fourth full-length, Gatsbys American Dream. While the band attained a reputation on their 2003 breakout, Ribbons & Sugar, for filling their songs with multiple references to famous literary works (Animal Farm being the dominant story on R&S) in clever, smirking metaphors, the following year's EP, In the Land of Lost Monsters, surely sounded like a reaction to contract negotiations the band encountered when searching for a new label to call home. Last year's followup to that, Volcano, returned the band to high school libraries. However, the band is yet again fuming at the business aspects they continually experience, and thus writes blunt songs directly talking about practices or otherwise thinly veiled metaphors reflective of their thoughts on their personal accounts here on their new album.
Musically, the band seems to have progressed a little from Volcano, with several nuances to be mentioned. One is the "danciness" of the songs -- in other words, even as the band is more angular than usual, they're also much bouncier and rhythmic. Comparisons to a Volcano song titled "A Mind of Metal and Wheels" have already run rampant, and it's hard to disagree, but especially on "Me and Ed Loyce," the chord progression of which seems to directly reference that song. After all, self-alluding was a common practice on Volcano, but if there's any references on the self-titled, it's this one and the title of "Filthy Beasts," which nods to lyrics in the band's near flawless "The Dragon of Pendor" off Monsters. Additionally, while keyboard was introduced on Volcano, it's a little more prominent here, occasionally sounding distinctly macabre ("We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," "Station 5: The Pearl," "Shadow of the Colossus"). As well, it seems that every member of the extended lineup contributes vocals at some point.
"You All Everybody" starts the album off in the band's signature, subtle way, but punctuated with a breakdown that, outside of its musically upbeat nature, sounds quite like Jawbreaker -- after all, it's distorted-guitar heavy, declines forcefully and emotionally, and integrates a barely audible clip from a film of sorts (or so, the band would lead you to believe from the vibe and nature of its entirety...). "Badd Beat" is sure to be a fan favorite, and spends its 3:13 course criticizing booking practices, the line "it would be too easy making 10% off the tours we book for you / so we figure we'll take as much as we can because it's not up to you" standing out well. For all its dark, critical subject matter, the usual juxtaposition of a happy musical field -- especially on "Badd Beat" -- is one the band provides, but with such a harsh condemnation of the music industry in place, it sounds fresh. "Shadow of the Colossus" is one of the lone exceptions -- Gatsbys is lively and up-tempo, but somehow sounding simultaneously downtrodden, loose gang vocals √¡ la "Theatre" teasing "we got your contract! / we got your a-art!." Said type of gang vocals again make an appearance in the charged, catchy "Filthy Beasts."
Complaints seem to be quite abroad in regards to the "raw" production used by long-time producer Casey Bates and band member Bobby Darling on the album, but as someone who grew up on modern punk rock albums not slap-happily raped with a barrage of artificial-sounding studio tricks, the record sounds perfect to this reviewer. Even looked at as a pop album, it feels wholesome and natural in that it's free of Auto Tune and minimal on the Pro Tools usage (maybe even completely void).
While the band's allusions seem mostly relegated to titles only, and to items such as the television show "Lost" and a Playstation 2 video game, the artwork provides a direct reference to John Christopher's Tripods trilogy, three books that described the sci-fi story of the Tripods, three-legged machines that "descended upon Earth and took control." Oh, and, "The White Mountains" does directly reference one of those 3 books. The tripods adorning Gatsbys' own artwork are quite obviously their own metaphors for...well...you can figure it out on your own by this point.
While not quite as strong as the band's previous efforts (namely Volcano and R&S), Gatsbys American Dream's self-titled effort is wildly inspired, angry, and forceful. It's an album from a band who loves making creative music -- in this case, a progressive type of pop/rock that draws from an astounding wealth of styles, but holds the utmost wishes that it avoid the traps of "phone tag"-type distortion when transmitted from artist to listener. I think with Gatsbys American Dream, one of the independent music scene's currently most unique, daring, consistent, ambitious and fearless bands has accomplished just that.
Gatsbys American Dream