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Able Baker Fox - Voices (Cover Artwork)

Able Baker Fox

Able Baker Fox: VoicesVoices (2008)
Second Nature Recordings

Reviewer Rating: 3
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Contributed by: SimpleSongSimpleSong
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Starting up a long-distance project and trading files back and forth to create an album is nothing new. Most music fans would probably cite more electronic-tinged musicians of trying this digital-age method out, and -- depending on your tastes -- you could say that groups such as the Postal Service .
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Starting up a long-distance project and trading files back and forth to create an album is nothing new. Most music fans would probably cite more electronic-tinged musicians of trying this digital-age method out, and -- depending on your tastes -- you could say that groups such as the Postal Service and Gnarls Barkley have executed this pen-pal technique to great collaborative effect.

Continuing this tradition is Able Baker Fox, a national collective consisting of Nathan Ellis, Mike Reed, Ben Reed, and Jeff Gentsterblum (the former being of Casket Lottery fame, the latter three comprising the excellent rythym section and vocals from the once-great Small Brown Bike). The group seems promising on more than just paper for those who remember the collaborative EP the two bands made years ago on Second Nature. The synthesis of the Casket Lottery and Bike's styles made them both sound distinctly different while creating a very detailed and cohesive sound that was a gateway to Small Brown Bike's defining moment, their Nail Yourself to the Ground EP. With all this creative momentum and finally reconvening to record a full-length as a proper band, the anticipation is properly high for this driving supergroup.

Opener "October" sets the scene for success. Trading vocals between Ellis on verses and Mike Reed on chorus, the song sounds like the prototype for the nü-screamo formula: a screaming verse leading into a melodic chorus. But this is to sell the band very short. Both singers actually have very good voices that move the music beyond any comparisons to the whiny genre. Ellis's nasally, yearning bursts in contrast to Reed's fuller, warmer register is a welcome combination. The song is great, and the final section is reminiscent of Our Own Wars-era Bike with its mighty outro.

The vocal trading on "What Doesn't Kill You" is to slightly lesser effect. The song's slower tempo during the verse gives the listener a chance to hear some mediocre lyrics and Ellis's quiet cooing is not his strongest asset. Reed's chorus saves the song to some extent, but it all lacks the interesting instrumentation of "October," which shows the band's ability to hang in with the technical tunefulness of Burning Airlines.

Impressive enough is Fox's attempt to try their hand at Tool's bass-riff rock. "Twenty Centuries" starts off sounding like something off Undertow. However, the group gets caught creating some mighty filler on Voices. "Face on Fire" starts off in interesting 5/4 time but fails to captivate with its slightly annoying vocal drab. When they aren't experimenting with time signatures (which is not often), the songs get to be mid-tempo, merely average affairs. "Palindramatics" is only slightly interesting, offering the drums-can-make-average-songs-sound-interesting approach Hey Mercedes often took. Its outro is too quick and fireless to compare to the album's excellent opener.

Able Baker Fox may release some interesting stuff in the future. One will hear the possibility in the music, especially if you were a fan of Small Brown Bike or Casket Lottery. They take a small chance on "Folding Pocket Blades," which sounds as though Ben Reed sings on. This song will either take you in or spit you out depending on whether you hear Ben's vocals as yelping or creative stretching; the band wisely serves it as a sampler, cranking it out and leaving it under 2 minutes. The closer, "Whispering," is possibly the album's strongest statement. On the group chorus, they sing, "Hey / don't stop / take a look at what you've got / Did you hear what your heart is whispering? / Are you listening? / Why aren't you listening?" and the effect is uplifting.

Ultimately, Voices may not satisfy those who enjoyed the aforementioned Bike/Lottery EP; hands down, the groups nailed it on that release and showed how interesting the instrumental segments of their songs could really be. Though this debut will probably not gain as many fans as those two bands did in their respective lifespans, the strong points convince us that there is still time.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Spooky (January 20, 2009)

Never been a fan of Small Brown Bike or The Casket Lottery but this album is amazing. Score is for the review and album.

munker (July 4, 2008)

Great to see the Reed brothers back in action again.

Rodeo (February 17, 2008)

Dead Reckoning is my favorite SBB album by far.

Bipedcasserole (February 17, 2008)

"Tool" and "impressive" in the same sentence?
that's honestly all i read, and that's obviously all i needed to.

TheMarc (February 16, 2008)

Just checked this out, and it's very good. Anyone else think this has orgcore written all over it? I mean, I can almost tell without looking it up that some of these dudes have beards.

booyahachieved (February 16, 2008)

Weird... I would say that face on fire is probably the best track on the whole record. I had it playing in the car with some friends and all of them immediately asked who we were listening to. Sure, there might be some weaker tracks but considering this was a collaborative project between four people in four different cities... that's what you get.

As for a favorite small brown bike album... for a while it probably was dead reckoning but over time I've grown to enjoy all of their releases equally. I honestly don't believe they ever had a "defining moment" just quality releases up until their demise.

Icapped2pac (February 16, 2008)

There seems to be two very divided schools of thought on Nail Yourself and not much in between. While I don't know about any defining moment, I can undoubtedly say that I feel it is their best CD (probably a 10/10), with Dead Reckoning a close second (8/10).

justinius (February 16, 2008)

the idea that nail yourself to the ground is small brown bike's defining moment is laughable.

danperrone (February 16, 2008)

nail yourself to the ground is amazing

newgouda (February 15, 2008)

One of the few albums I've picked up recently that I can listen to all the way through. Sure, there's room for improvement, but this is still pretty damn solid.

inagreendase (February 15, 2008)

I dunno, I think this album pretty much rules.

these_parks_are_lakes (February 15, 2008)

*exaclty the same reaction.

these_parks_are_lakes (February 15, 2008)

yeah to the "Nail Yourself to the Ground" Comment. I had ecaclty the same reaction.

Dead Reckoning = really good

Nail Yourself to the Ground = mess

Rodeo (February 15, 2008)

This album is fucking amazing. This review, however, is not.

DrGunn (February 15, 2008)

i had a dream the other night that i was in some bizarre mall, searching for this record. it ended with me going down a water slide and shooting someone and then someone shooting me.

i will probably get this eventually.

nightowl (February 15, 2008)

im fairly confident hey mercedes never wrote a song with the idea in mind to have damon go crazy in order to make a song better...

blanktapesemptybottles (February 15, 2008)

this album is amazing, you guys are all fucking haters...

Icapped2pac (February 15, 2008)

I agree quite a bit with the review, especially about "Face On Fire". When I ripped the CD and transferred it to my Ipod, suffice it to say it became a 10-song album. My favorite part of the album is probably the chorus of "Blind Writer". Sadly I didn't make it to the 2nd HWM reunion show at The Metro early enough to catch their set. Anybody else see them and care to comment about how they sounded live?

anthem (February 15, 2008)

Okay, so I'm new at this...I actually give it 4 stars since 3.5 isn't an option.

anthem (February 15, 2008)

I created an account simply to say that if you think "Nail Yourself To The Ground" is the Bike's defining moment, you're out of your mind. Both "Dead Reckoning" and "Our Own Wars" run circles around anything else they released, including the Casket Lottery split.

This album's pretty good; if I could have given it 3.5 stars, I would have. Really want to see these guys live...

danperrone (February 15, 2008)

super boring

thedude (February 15, 2008)

excellent review. what you wrote captures exactly how i feel about this album. it's got promise, but i think they fall slightly short.

AND, i thought i was the only one who thought the drums in hey mercedes were some of the most exciting drums i've ever heard in a punk/indie band. i'm glad to see somone else appreciated that. i've been waiting for damon atkinson to get in another band just so i can follow his sound. dude rocks.

jonodeath (February 15, 2008)

If you don't assume it's going to sound exactly like Casket Lottery or Small Brown Bike, then this album is awesome. I liked both bands, but listened to the album at first with a clear mind and can't stop.

It's not supposed to be in your face energetic, but I think the slight weird/experimental vibes make it stick out. "Whispering" is definitely my favorite track.

onegirlarmy (February 15, 2008)

On first listen, I found it fairly boring.

I've since come around to it. Good record.

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