Desert City Soundtrack - Contents of Distraction (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Desert City Soundtrack

Contents of Distraction (2002)

Deep Elm

Imagination: a very simple and extremely important part of the creative process that is often overlooked in pop music. Rather than push and test the boundaries of what rock and roll can and should be, musicians usually opt for the surface deal, talking the talk and faking the walk. Desert.City.Soundtrack are not musicians standing in this line, in fact the imagination that went into their debut record "(contents of distraction)" is their most potent weapon producing a record that is ethereal yet grounded at every turn covering the entire spectrum from silent to violent, a blend that is brutal rock and roll possessing the delicacy of a broken spirit. "What to do in Case of Fire" gives the listener the keys to the Desert.City world, a perfect layout for the urgency and patience of this band, but just when you feel you've seen all the sites you realize that there is a man behind the curtain and he will never show his face. There is a separation as well as a familiarity between the musicians and their music which is so blurred that all one can do is focus on the work and ignore any intention or thought behind the conception. And that my friends, is a noble victory in rock and roll.

This is not a typical post-hardcore record, let alone a typical record in any sense. The music of Desert.City.Soundtrack weaves layers of vocal screams, distorted guitars, and intense drumming around a grand piano. Each instrument is treated equal here, every sound an extension of another; vocals are mixed into the rhythm section instead of taking the forefront, completing the circle with the instrumentalists. The screamed chorus of "Murderhearts" comes across as perverse overtones of the piano and the drums become the mallets striking its strings. As the climax builds during the outro a trumpet (played by keyboardist Cory Gray) carries the melody over the carnage. This is simply one of the surprises one will find on this record. Clever arrangements take you over the landscape while brilliant drumming by Caitlin Love quickens your pulse as Cory Gray's piano dances teasingly amidst the distortion. I am thrown off course, however, by singer Matt Carrillo whose whiny scream is far from the best. But this is one small detail for his voice is subtly mixed into the music making it another texture.

Clocking in at twenty-nine minutes of beautifully orchestrated rock and roll (with one minute of noise) this record comes to its best moment right at the end with the song "Foglifter". This is one of those band-defining songs and just when the tempo change hits you realize how good this band is and that you need to press repeat on your stereo. A lot of imagination and fearlessness went into making a pop record that is not only original but also excellent, and one can only hope that Desert.City.Soundtrack have imagination to spare for records to come.