The Blacktop Cadence - Chemistry for Changing Times (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Blacktop Cadence

Chemistry for Changing Times (2003)

No Idea

When I was sent this to review, I first listened to it oblivious to the fact that it is a rerelease of a big name band's sideproject. I heard the first tracks and was left fairly unimpressed at the mellow uninteresting guitars and slow tempos, but thinking that the vocals sound a bit like Hot Water Music. I soon found out that there were indeed ties to HWM- that it was a project of George (drums) and Chris (vocals/guitar), and that the CD has been out of print for 5 years. I tried not to let this affect my interpretation of the album and keep an objective view.

Honestly the beginning of the CD is a little weak because there is fairly little going on in the music. Not only are the tempos slow and the volume at a minumum, but there is little going on in terms of melody, interesting rhythms,… and much of anything. Also, the vocals are not intense, which is why I thought at first that the vocalist only sounded "a bit" like HWM, because Chris is not singing in his normal range and character, it was rather bland. But it got better.

My interest perked up with the synth in the intrumental track 5 "Forty Two" and the viola in track 6 "Sinker" (viola also appears in two other songs). "Sinker" is my favorite track, and I especially dig the ending, which winds down to merely viola and marching-style snare drumming. Another thing I liked about it was the tempo was bumped up a few notches with driving drumming, the intensity was increased with drastic shifts in volume and guitar distortion, and the vocals improved Chris letting loose here and there – aspects which continue on into the next two tracks. The CD ends back on a slow note, but still maintaining the energy of the previous songs.

So the end of this disc is much better than the start, but I may have failed in my objective view. Did I only like the end because it sounded more like Hot Water Music? No, I think that the first tracks are in fact rather bland, and the end is just better. And really, none of it sounds exactly like their main band- it is more laid-back, even in the uptempo tracks, the guitar and bass tone qualitys are less raw, the vocals melodies less "poppy," and the songs contain extras like the viola. It's a decent record and must have for die-hard HWM fans, but thank god these guys didn't quit their day job.