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Strength In Numbers Rules! (Another Take on the 2005 Seattle Compilation)

Posted by February 21st, 2006 No Comments »

Strength in Numbers, Highlights from a Post-Grunge Seattle
By Paul Groth

I wanted to call Strength in Numbers a “do-it-ourselves” release, as opposed to DIY, to accentuate the communal approach used to promote this album. I realized that the acronym would be DIO, and who wants to have a record review associated with “Holy Diver?” Having said that, I think having a co-op CD like this without the support of a “name brand” indie label is a stellar idea.

If you say you know about local music and you don’t have Strength in Numbers, then you should: 1) Re-evaluate your record collection and 2) Scrape together the $7 to buy it. There’s an excellent grab-bag of music here ranging from radio friendly to the esoteric.

Local media darlings RazRez kick off this album with “Snake.” This cut is like Bauhaus head butting Roxy Music in the privates. It’s dark and poppy like a Coca-Cola. “Police” has that angular guitar riff-age akin to Television without the long jams. This track is most representative of their “sound.” If you like early 80’s Brit New Wave, you’ll get a jolt out of these guys.

One of the best songs on this comp is “Missing Person” by the Jeunes. Even though they usually don’t sound like Sonic Youth, the vocals have that Thurston Moore quality paired with the dissonant guitar that could cause a car wreck on the expressway to your skull. The other two songs sound like how I know the Jeunes – Jesus and Mary Chain sensibility without the high-end cacophony. This is ear candy for those looking for something that tastes just like honey, but drones on like a bumblebee buzz.

Strength in Numbers, Highlights from a Post-Grunge Seattle
By Paul Groth

I wanted to call Strength in Numbers a “do-it-ourselves” release, as opposed to DIY, to accentuate the communal approach used to promote this album. I realized that the acronym would be DIO, and who wants to have a record review associated with “Holy Diver?” Having said that, I think having a co-op CD like this without the support of a “name brand” indie label is a stellar idea.

If you say you know about local music and you don’t have Strength in Numbers, then you should: 1) Re-evaluate your record collection and 2) Scrape together the $7 to buy it. There’s an excellent grab-bag of music here ranging from radio friendly to the esoteric.

Local media darlings RazRez kick off this album with “Snake.” This cut is like Bauhaus head butting Roxy Music in the privates. It’s dark and poppy like a Coca-Cola. “Police” has that angular guitar riff-age akin to Television without the long jams. This track is most representative of their “sound.” If you like early 80’s Brit New Wave, you’ll get a jolt out of these guys.

One of the best songs on this comp is “Missing Person” by the Jeunes. Even though they usually don’t sound like Sonic Youth, the vocals have that Thurston Moore quality paired with the dissonant guitar that could cause a car wreck on the expressway to your skull. The other two songs sound like how I know the Jeunes – Jesus and Mary Chain sensibility without the high-end cacophony. This is ear candy for those looking for something that tastes just like honey, but drones on like a bumblebee buzz.

Rosyvelt offers a bit more melody than the first two bands. Their song “Red Blood Cells” is a gloomy, somewhat country-fried tune with a memorable ending that sounds like “The Man Who Sold the World” meets Pet Sounds. Their other cut, “Aurora,” references a certain bridge in Seatown. Listen to it! I bet you can figure out what it is. Rosyvelt has unique sounding vocals that sound like…well, I just can’t put my finger on that one.

The most melodic band on Strength in Numbers is Math and Physics Club. These guys take a page from the Smiths, actually making it more twee. With their two contributions, “Sixteen and Pretty” and “Nothing Really Happened,” it’s hard not to think of Moz reelin’ round the fountain asking, “What difference does it make?” The songs are really intelligent and clever and Math and Physics Club will attract people who want to hear how rain influences the melancholy in the Pacific Northwest.

C’est La Mort is breathtaking. This luscious four-piece has otherworldly female harmonies that float far past the stratosphere. “Ashes, Ashes” has Cure bass lines and closes with a spacy interplay between one voice singing, “Is your love for real?” while the other voice breathes, “It’s a long fall down.” This song will make you numb! It’s so spooky your spine will lose feeling. “Collapse” also utilizes this dreamy equation with ethereal beauty, and I don’t use the word ‘ethereal’ very often.

Birds of Prey unfortunately only have two songs on this CD. The unison male/female vocals drown in an ocean of fuzz and drum pulses. It makes me wonder if these sounds are actually from Strength in Numbers or if they’re noises from some AM station my headphones are picking up. “Rejection Park.,” is GIGANTIC. Strong female vocals cut through the pastoral musical murk of the guitar, bass and drums, showing one of the true strengths of this comp among our local bands.

Infomatik is not just another electroclash band, even though their name may imply it. I’m glad this band made it onto this mostly guitar-driven album. Keyboards are very prevalent on their three tracks. In fact, “Inside a Moment,” has no lead guitars blaring, instead there’s a hypnotic bass line weaving in and out of the keyboards and drums. “Further Away” has the nuances of an early Wire song, but with a “switched-on” sort of feel. Furthering the dialogue between mensch and maschine, “The Mechanical Bride” has fun Frankenstein lyrics backed by a Kraftwerk- New Order hop.

Bulletclub wraps up this album with its spastic, algebraic anthems and they’re definitely the heaviest band on the comp. Every instrument is more angular than an octagon and the music is busier than a cracked-up octopus. The vocals tend to sound as aggressive as Guy Picciotto of Fugazi but more schizophrenic, like Les Savy Fav’s Tim Harrington. On “Fist in My Mouth” and “Automatic King,” you can almost hear the band ping-ponging between pogoing and rolling in broken glass. Very exciting indeed!

Go out and buy 2 copies of Strength in Numbers, one for you and one for your jaded hipster friend. Seattle’s music didn’t die after grunge, it’s gotten better. This compilation will hopefully give recognition to these bands virtually ignored by the local press. And I should add that buying this record ain’t enough. You gotta buy it, listen to it, and lend it to another person. That’s what a good li’l local music junkie needs to do. It’s a moral imperative. – (8.5/10)


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