New Idea Society - New Idea Society (Cover Artwork)

New Idea Society

New Idea Society (2001)


The Cave In side project fanatic may be the Sonic Youth side project fanatic of the new millenium. During the 80's and 90's, in addition to having an incredibly prolific band, members of Sonic Youth participated in countless side projects, and as with any successful band, there were a few dedicated followers who attempted to acquire everything, no matter what the quality. If it had "featuring members of Sonic Youth" on the cover, these people would buy it. In addition to these wack jobs, there were those of us who picked up such releases when we found them in used bins, only to wonder why exactly we bought them in the first place. Sonic Youth can be a heady, difficult-to-digest band in the first place, but the members' side projects often pushed their way into full-scale insanity, sometimes in a way that really wasn't very enjoyable at all.

So what does this have to do with the New Idea Society? Well, NIS features Steven Brodsky of Cave In, another incredibly prolific musician who almost always seems to have something going. Whether it's the spacey prog of Cave In, the ambient instrumental sounds of the Sacrifice Poles, or the melodic metal of Kid Killowatt, Brodsky is almost always doing something, but unlike Thurston, Kim, Lee, and Steve, Brodsky's name on a release is an immediate assurance of quality. Even with projects like the New Idea Society, which I don't believe Steven plays a terribly large part in, turn to gold when touched by the young virtuoso.

You won't get any of Steven's sweet falsetto on the New Idea Society EP, but you will find four really great indie rock songs. The tracks, perhaps coincidentally, are arranged in order of how much acoustic guitar is present in the mix. The first song, "Don't Die On the Dance Floor (Then Walk Away)," is a totally rocking indie song, sort of like harder tracks by Blur or maybe Teenage Fanclub. Even though the whole EP was recorded in a home studio on an 8-track, there are a number of great studio effects that really propel the song forward; the song is so up-tempo and distorted that I'd almost call it punk rock.

The studio tinkering continues onto the second track, which features acoustic and electric guitars at almost the same volume in the mix. This doesn't sound groundbreaking, but I can't recall ever hearing guitars mixed in quite this way, and the way that it combines the abrasive, percussive feel of acoustic strumming with the smooth, melodic sound of a distorted electric guitar is genius.

As for the final two tracks, they're more acoustic-based. "What It's Like To Be Made Of Red Clay" features a surf-y lead guitar that is a dead ringer for some of the Saints' slower tracks, and the final track is a very brief, sparsely-recorded acoustic number that is a great cool-down from the potent indie rock of the first half of the CD. This was such a perfect sequence that I actually played the CD again immediately after I'd listened to it the first time; anyone who has spent an hour or more in a car with me will attest that I NEVER do that. This CD is as close to a perfect dose of rock as I've heard in a good long while.

At least so far, Stevenbrodskysideprojectitis isn't so much a disease as a sign of good musical taste. It may not be any easier on the wallet than those Free Kitten 7"s or Velvet Monkey LPs, but at least you can pull it off of the shelf every once in a while and not think that your money would have been better spent on a tasty Italian entree.

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