Well, the Effigies didn't pull a Mission of Burma or a Buzzcocks with this album. Reside is not the best album of their career and I doubt you'll find anyone who will argue that. Thankfully though, they also didn't pull a Gang of Four or Bad Brains and release a complete embarrassment. Seriously, try to defend Shrinkwrapped or God of Love. It simply can't be done. What the Effigies did do with this album is release a solid reunion album that sounds as if it could fit neatly between Forever Grounded and Fly on a Wire.
When this album is on, it's on. About half of the songs harken back to the driving, powerful early punk rock of the first singles. While there are no songs that recall thrashier numbers like "Strong Box," the band hasn't forgotten how to rock. My personal favorite songs are "Haz-Mat," "Night Train," and "The Guv'ner." These three songs most accurately represent an updated version of the early Chicago sound that they pioneered. "Haz-Mat" and "Night Train" sound like unrecorded gems from 1984, keeping a brisk pace throughout with instantly memorable choruses designed for sing-alongs. "The Guv'ner" features well-placed gang vocals that build up as the song throttles forward and a few guitar solo breaks to boot. The opening song "The Full Weight of Failure" is the most succesful slower song because it manages to not get boring. As the song goes on, layers of vocals and guitar tracks keep getting added but restraint is shown in that the tempo never increases. Much less restraint is shown in "Gift of Sight," which takes the titles of fastest song on the album and coolest guitar solo. Robert McNaughton is the only non-original member but we won't begrudge him that after listening to his performance on that song.
However, there are reasons why this is not getting a higher score. Since the band first reunited almost three years ago, they have been playing "Baby Sleeps Alone" at every show. Finally hearing this song recorded confirms my suspicion that it is half of a great song that is ruined by an atrocious chorus. The intro builds up a suitable amount of tension and the verses have an insanely catchy looping bass line, off-kilter drumbeats, and slashing guitars. It has all the ingredients for an absolutely killer song until the completely pedestrian chorus comes in. It slows to a crawl for a weakly sung, riffless chorus. Any and all momentum built up is utterly obliterated within seconds. "The Rake of Autumn Light" honest to God sounds like it belongs in the repertoire of an arena rock giant, not one of the first Midwest punk rock bands. It reminded me a wee bit of Journey, and I mean that in the worst possible way. While none of the other songs not mentioned are as bad as these two, they aren't as memorable as I hoped.
Just as a word of advice, this most definitely is not a "pick me up" album. Gone are the days of political rants such as "Quota" and "We're Da Machine" and the self-affirming "We'll Be Here Tomorrow." The lyrics of Reside seem tied together by an overbearing sense of loss and regret. The following lyrics from "The Full Weight of Failure" are the first words sung on the album: "The full weight of failure / Is a lead coat I can't overthrow / Pockets full of phony coins / Wages of regret, you know." From there it doesn't get much brighter. Just some sample lyrics: "Night Train" -- "What once was hoped for / It's now too late / What once was worked for / It's now too late / What once was planned for / It's now too late / What once was loved for / It's now too late"; "Scarecrow" -- "Here I am / Nothing but a scarecrow / Stuck in ground / On a patch where nothing grows." Ouch.
Overall, I believe anyone who is already an Effigies fan will be able to find a lot of value in buying this. However I would not recommend this to be anybody's first purchase. Anyone who's curious about why the Effigies are legends should do themselves a favor and pick up the Remains Nonviewable CD from Touch & Go Records and then attempt to find their other LPs, either in MP3 format or the original records (which are long out-of-print). Only after you listen to their early work can you really appreciate Reside.