Chris Simpson. Does that name mean anything to you? If it's not ringing a bell, after this review, it will. For the last eight years, Simpson has slowly been making a name for himself in the indie scene. I better do the history first...
In 1994, he and a few friends in Austin, Texas formed the now legendary emo band known as Mineral. After a few seven inches, the band released their debut album in 1997, The Power Of Failing. With that, the band displayed raw emotion, roaring guitars, and lyrics written by one with incredible insight. That man would be Chris Simpson.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love that record, and there are some amazing songs on it, but some of the songs just didn't flow correctly, or seemed out of place. All would be corrected with the band's next release, EndSerenading. The band's debut was recorded in 1995, so the guys had a lot of time to work on new material. In 1998, a year after the debut was released, EndSerenading was handed to the masses.
This would sadly be the band's final album, but they went out with a bang. With this, the band found an even more unique sound, and it worked. It was a much slower release, but it was flawless. That is easily one of the greatest albums I have ever heard in my life.
So, two amazing albums, and a cult following. What's to do next? Break up while you're on top. So, the members of Mineral went their separate ways. Gabe Wiley (drums) & Scott McCarvery (guitar) are now in a little band called Pop Unknown. What would be come of Chris Simpson (vocals/guitar) and Jeremy Gomez (bass)? They formed The Gloria Record, that's what.
So, Simpson and Gomez teamed up with Brian Hubbard (guitar), Ben Houtman (keyboards), and Brian Malone (drums), and The Gloria Record was born. In 1998 they released a seven inch and a self titled ep On Crank Records, which was also the home to Mineral. That was followed by another ep, A Lull In Traffic, which hit shelves in 2000. Those releases were met with mixed reaction. I loved some of the songs, and felt mixed about others.
Who knew what was next for the band? On and off touring and a search for a new sound followed in 2000 and 2001. We are now up to date! 2002 brings us Start Here, the debut full length from The Gloria Record. Yes, this is a full length, finally, ten songs, fifty minutes, the whole deal.
If you had an opinion of this band prior to hearing this record, put it down and erase it. This is the same band, but with a unique sound that was always there, but it just hadn't evolved until now, with this record. This is not an emo record. Who cares if it is or not? It's indie music at its best, and hello critics, it's the best album of the year.
This album has it all. It has your relaxing melodies, great instrumental work, and not to mention some cryptic songwriting that will make you force you to ponder your current position in the world, oh yeah, not to mention, Simpson's vocals are top notch. Start Here is filled with tons of keyboard, and various effects that enhance the album's sound.
We start with the album's title track, which is a lovely welcome. Simpson slowly sings, "Lose yoursef. You're young and you've got time. It's simple. Then START HERE and move foward. You'll figure it all out eventually or not. Either way you'll have company..." It's a very relaxing intro which quietly fades into track two, Good Morning Providence, one of my favorites. The album rips through song after song. Once it ends, you sit wondering, "It's over?" This album puts you in a completely relaxed state of mind.
It's the type of album you can listen to when you turn your lights off, lie down and stare at the ceiling. Hey, with 4/20 coming up, Start Here just could be the perfect addition to your musical collection. Hence the pot jokes.
Something that was noticed on previous releases by Chris was that there were small references to his faith, and god. It seems that he has finished exploring that topic for now, and has moved on to new topics. Most of the songs on this album are about the serious car accident Simpson had. Glad to see he's ok, and I'm even more thrilled that he had the courage to share these words with us.
Cinema Air is track three, which seems to be a kind of a pseudo reference to the perfect person, a heroine of some sort: "Please tell the whole world I am here to be their hero with a perect body and straight teeth and strings swelling everytime I blink."
I Was Born In Omaha, follows. It's primarily an acoustic track, but some full band action is featured towards the middle and end of the song. This is probably my favorite song on the entire album. Simpson's soothing voice howls, "I was born in Omaha to steal her skeptic heart. My piano fingers tugging at the chord, cause life in a bubble can be the sweetest thing sometimes. With the world just passing by outside your window...DREAM OVER"
The rest of the album passes by flawlessly without a hitch, as track by track digs deeper and deeper into the band's heart. The eight minute cries of Salvation Army are another highlight of the album. Let's just cut to the last track of the album, Ambulance. It's the perfect way to end the album, and is another one of my favorites. The band leaves us with the final, "I will not apologize for anything I find when I go sifting through the wreck you left behind to try and make something nice not just so angry all the time..."
Hey, come out of the wreck Chris. I have a feeling a lot of people are going to love this album if that does anything for recovery. I sense a huge Radiohead influence within The Gloria Record. But, you know, I was thinking of something, is Start Here the indie Ok Computer? It very well could be. Radiohead fans will probably love this album, and indie scenesters across the board should welcome this album with open arms. I sure did.
I honestly believe this is Chris Simpson's true masterpiece. It's tough for me to say this, but this eclipses anything he has ever done, including Mineral. That's how good this record is. It's hard to compare The Gloria Record and Mineral. They are two completely different bands with music written at two completely different time periods in Simpson's life.
The Gloria Record is a very talented band. Everything about them is amazing, and it will be interesting to see how the band follows this one up. It's going to be tough, but I'm sure it's possible. This is my pick for THE ALBUM of 2002. Start Here is a record far ahead of its time, and I feel so relieved that I can embrace it and say it's one of the best records I've heard in my short existance.
In the end, it's all about the music, and the music is here, thriving at its best with Start Here. Chris Simpson is the new hero of independent music, and the sad thing is, barely anyone realizes it.