The Felix Culpa - Commitment (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Felix Culpa

Commitment (2004)

Common Cloud

The Felix Culpa's first full-length Commitment is a strange, irrational, misplaced record. Their atmospheric, Christian-founded sound is akin to dreamy Tooth & Nail artists like Emery or Further Seems Forever, but the band steps far out of the genre's normal boundaries as they implement odd guitar riffs and extended landscapes, with tracks running an average of five minutes apiece. The album is both pleasant and unsettling at the same time, as the beautifully deep vocals of the lead singer put you in a mellow trance, only to violently shake you by some angular chord progression or bipolar expression. If there was some sort of midpoint between dreams and nightmares, this would be the soundtrack. The band's style is tougher to pin down than it seems; although they have a small sample of screaming here and there (the mid-album, eight-minute "Numbers," for example), all it really does is make the abovementioned comparisons easier to bring up.

It's not that Commitment is awkward. The Felix Culpa are certainly a creative trio, and admirably throw a lot of little things into the album musically for a three piece. It's more or less that the simpler parts of the album just aren't thrilling enough to justfiy placement. No one's asking for permanent freakout sessions or a constant barrage of experimental journeys, but I just don't feel knock-down-drag-out floored while listening to these parts of the album, or the more complex roads taken for that matter. It's both amiable and misanthropic and just too disjointed to "work." I feel compelled to say something like "the band is overstepping their creative boundaries," but if that's the case, they'll be continents away by their next album, which doesn't seem a likely case.

The layout is probably the standout aspect of the whole thing. Packaged inside the spine of the CD case is a pencil, the obvious size of which is usually reserved for mini golf scoring. Opening the case, the band provides instructions on what to do with it - after disassembling the jewel case, the potential artist apparently will be inclined to create something on the blank canvas provided by the album cover (as conveniently shown to the right here on the screen of your home or office monitor). Oddly enough, whatever will be drawn, the feasibly improvised sketches'll likely be as fragmented and broken-felt as the music contained within.

Maybe I just don't "get" it, or maybe there's less to get than I'm imagining. Either way, The Felix Culpa's debut is far from sordid but equally distanced from greatness, as the band's hearts are in the right place...their heads just seem to overshoot the accomplishment.

Entire album