The Look Machine - Above This Clouded Mind (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Look Machine

Above This Clouded Mind (2006)


Few bands have ever given me such a hard time in the way of pinning down a genre as the Look Machine. And I suppose, that in itself, in this day and age, is a victory. In an era where seemingly anything can be tagged with ‘core,' the Look Machine have offered a debut that's just as grounded in punk and hardcore as earthly folk.

There's so much going into this musical puzzle that I may as well be trying to put the pieces together with a blindfold on. One minute a rock band with epic vocal delivery, the next a folk band using nothing but the grassroots of voice and acoustic guitar, and the next a hardcore band buzzing with energy and dissonance, the Look Machine have truly covered all bases. They've reached to the farthest corners of rock music and taken something special from each. And rather than a muddled result with no true sense of itself, they've succeeded in being a jack of all trades.

Somewhat surprisingly though, it's not the tempo of the songs that dictates the variety, it's not the instruments used therein, but the vocals of singer Jason Latshaw. It is then maybe the truest irony of all that the producer of the record is Latshaw's brother Josh, who played in the now defunct Boysetsfire, and how eerie similarities shared between Jason Latshaw and Boysetsfire vocalist Nathan Gray are. Since Latshaw does not often let loose and yell the way Gray did, it's in the singing that there's remarkable similarity.

With 15 songs and an extremely wide variety of tempos and sounds, it gives ample opportunity for variety in the vocals, making sure they suit a stripped-down acoustic sound, or a grandiose heightened atmosphere; after all, the band likes to interweave both styles in over the course of all 15 songs. And with that many tracks, it's easy to lose direction and it's easy to lose momentum, but the constant changes in almost every facet of songwriting alleviate that problem completely. The somber state of "Stop the Bleeding" is the band's shining moment, and one where they sound so completely comfortable and completely in control that you can't help but be impressed. Using only the absolute bare amount of instrumentation, Latshaw's vocal qualities are on full display. The despondent lyrical delivery on lines like "I turned into someone I never thought I'd know" is chill-inducing. They work just as well in a more intense manner, though, as the opening riffs to "Name" are alarming and foreshadow the intensity to come. The vocals never do rise to a scream, but all that's brewing beneath the surface with the cascading rhythms and solid drum fills is impressive nonetheless.

Most tracks fall somewhere in the middle in regards to pace and intensity, but there's enough internal variety to keep each of the 15 songs in the category of "worth listening to."

A truly unique effort with something to offer to a wide variety of people. The fact that so many styles, tempos, and ideas can coalesce in a very coherent effort is something to at very least be admired. No, I can't pin this to one genre, but for once, it simply doesn't matter.