(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

CD review - Friend Slash Lover, As American As Ones and Zeros (2010)

The truly clever have a good sense for how far to take things. It's easy to run the humor into the ground or bury the wit under a weight of excess. On As American As Ones and Zeros, Friend Slash Lover have struck the right level. The ambiguity of the band name (is that punctuation or a verb?) and intriguing titles catch the imagination. The songs deliver on this, with good music production and interesting lyrics. The primarily indie rock tunes occasionally drift towards progressive rock and there are enough arty touches to remind you that founder Josh Mintz has an art school pedigree. The arrangements are loosely structured, giving the songs a nice fluid feel.

The expressive vocals often push the songs into an emo orbit, perhaps making them fraught with deeper meaning than the lyrics can quite deliver. But rather than conflicting, this gives As American As Ones And Zeros a cathartic feel. The music supports this, with interesting tunings, good dynamics, and subtle tension.

Breaking Up starts out pretty, reflective, and restrained. The vocal is emotional and personal, meshing well with the lyrical theme of surrender. The repetitive rhythm guitar is accented by single notes swelling. The other contributing parts come in, until a wave of sound rises up and dominates. This takes the song into a different space that's like a less guitar focused version of My Morning Jacket.

The nice lyrical conceit of Where Have I Been All My Life is richly layered with ethereal sounds and back masked music. The flow of words meshes in perfectly:
Getting to know yourself is something you owe yourself, you know
Tell yourself to let go.
It's a pretty affirmation, where the emotional delivery feels sincere.

The weakest song, Disasteroid, suffers from trying too hard on the verse rhyme scheme:
We want our faster toys
And then we act annoyed
That we have half destroyed

Our little asteroid
It's a disaster, boy
That we'll have to avoid
Or be the last to enjoy
Our little asteroid
Even with these flaws, the song succeeds in developing tension into a stronger drive. The transition to a power pop sound on the chorus is also a nice touch.

"Money can't buy happiness...yet", but Friends Slash Lover envision the time when it can. A Rockstar energy drink (mango, anyone?) might be ironic enough for As American as Ones and Zeros.

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