Between the Never and the Now
By Graham Isaac
Okay. I’m calling bullshit on this album. I know these guys are local, “putting Seattle back on the map” and give Pretty Girls Make Graves shout outs in national interviews. Good for them. However, this album is practically the definition of “corporate rock.”
Now, some of you are already shaking your heads. “There goes another indie elitist who can’t stand cleanly produced guitar, or catchy, radio-friendly songs.” To quote Jack Black, you can be, and are wrong. My problem with Between the Never and the Now isn’t principally with the fact it’s overproduced, derivative and largely predictable. My problem with it is that it’s not a new album.
Okay let’s review. I was first introduced to Vendetta Red on KEXP, impressed by their soaring vocals and big guitars. Then I saw them open for the late, great Raft of Dead Monkeys (R.I.P.) and was impressed with the energy of their live show. I thought “Hey, these guys are pretty good.” So did a lot of record executives who were looking to fill the Great Rock Hope hole left when the members of At the Drive In split up to form Sparta and Mars Volta.
I had a feeling Vendetta Red would cave in and write poppy, polished, pandering songs for their major label debut. Perhaps they’d re-record a signature tune for inclusion on the record. I did not, however, think they’d release an album consisting entirely of old songs from their first two albums, re-recorded by Jerry Finn (Blink 182, Green Day) and then try to deny the existence of their indie releases, or pass them off as “demos.”
Granted, this was probably the label’s choice, not theirs. Zach Davidson and his crew were probably too busy getting fifteen year olds drunk at after parties– “We’re in a signed band!”– to even read their contract. Good call guys.
Songs generally start out with clean guitars, build to an Epic Riff, die out for a bridge and climax again. But then, if you had Blackout Analysis or White Knuckled Substance you’ve heard these songs before the guitar tones sounded like Creed. All the edge has been sanded off the originals. “Opiate Summer,” which originally brooded with intensity is now a pop-punk anthem. Davidson’s screams come off forced, like merely a screamo genre fullfillment. “Shatterday” fares best with the glossy treatment, the chorus soaring in a call to sing along. Rolling Stone compared that song to “Fugazi gone top 40,” as if the one thing that would really make Fugazi good would be sounding a little more like 3 Doors Down and a spot between Britney and J-Lo on company playlists.
Don’t worry. Vendetta Red will be there soon, and it won’t be a triumph for the indie underground, or even generic youth culture. It’ll be just another example of commerce sucking the life out of something decent. – (4/10)