Monday, September 29, 2014

Telephone & Address - "Need Not Apply" Review!!

After a quiet weekend, we're back for our 63rd monthly CD review on the site, and this month, we're taking a look at local punk/grunge solo project Telephone & Address' new album "Need Not Apply"! It was close between this and Northwest's new digital EP, but after "The Rotten EP" got too delayed, it'd be a disservice to do the same to this disc. Released through Harmisntus Productions at the IDNS concert at The Oddfellows Hall on September 6th, this CD (presumably T&A's sixth when counting the out of print albums listed here) was recorded independently this year and is registered through SOCAN. Packaged in cardboard like on the preceding "Rotten EP" with slightly varying artwork on each copy, the album features project leader Chris Shoust on vocals, bass, and progarmmed drums on each song, a change from the acoustic guitar performances that came on earlier releases. Copies of "Need Not Apply" (which is not available on online stores) can be bought for $15 at Telephone & Address concerts and presumably through direct contact with Chris, though only 100 copies were printed originally.

Featuring 15 songs at about 37 minutes in length, let's begin this review with the first song, fittingly named "Opener"!  Kicking off with laughter and light coughing, this song is a straightforward alt-rock number with spoken word lyrics referencing the government and nasally sung chorus vocals. It's one of 8 songs on the album that hover around 2 minutes in length, so there's not a lot of room to experiment, but Chris makes his point lyrically, and he gets good tone out of his bass! However, the song does still feel unfinished, and it could use more of a varied bridge or chorus to shake it up. Second on this CD is "Coming Down", which is the album's shortest song, but it captures more of a melodic punk tone that makes use of it's length better, with Chris singing at a more consistent tone, and his bass playing capturing more of the song's spirit. Strong lyrics, and it's an overall better song than "Opener", but it does feel like it could use guitars too, a recurring trend on this disc.

Next is the comparatively long "Perfect Circle", which begins with tinny programmed drums and a heavier bass riff that chugs along well, with Chris capturing some of his angrier and more pointed singing here! Good lo-fi action here, and it almost feels like a song that you could use for a rally or march, but in the process, it loses some of the melody seen on "Coming Down". Strong aggressive song that makes the most of it's minimalistic trappings, and it's an early highlight! That's followed by "General Strike", which has a darker sound that blends punk bass riffs and gang-esque chorus vocals with effective verses referring to working conditions and the title strike. Solid passion on this one too, and it's one of Chris' better bass performances early on, so if you can get past the lo-fi nature of the recording and the lack of guitars, you'll see the quality remaining consistent here, and to me, the album continues to improve as it goes along!

Fifth is the only song to surpass 4 minutes on this CD, that being "Anthem" (unrelated to the non-album track "Anthem To The Queen"), which survives a shaky start to take on a folksy vibe with well written lryics, consistent bass riffing, and stop & start verses with nice emotion! However, this song gets repetitive after a while, with no distinct chorus to break up the verses, which seem to go on too long without a change in tempo or energy. This song would play better if it was either slashed in half or given choruses to break it up, but it's reliable otherwise! Next is "Army of Losers", which returns to a more straightforward punk essence with more of a defined structure and good intensity, and his singing is controlled well on this song, but the chorus lyrics (that just repeat the title) could stand to be added to. Abrupt ending also, but it's an improvement on "Anthem", and has more of the punk & grunge sensibility from earlier tracks!

Seventh on "Need Not Apply" is "Yulp" (I believe that's how it's printed), which has an upbeat punk spirit, but aside from two screams, is an instrumental track. Well performed with sort of a pop punk essence at times, and his bass skills are extra evident, but I am left wondering how this song would have sounded if it had written lyrics (plus, the screams sound like they came from a different room.) Solid work though! Then we have "Back To The Beginning", which returns to the formula of earlier songs with upbeat punk singing, solid low bass, and a folksy lo-fi environment, but with catchy choruses to shake things up. The ending's a little abrupt, and likewise left the song feeling unfinished, but I like the punk energy on this one, and it's definitely worth checking out!

Song #9 is "Brace Yourself", which begins with a grungy bass lick before getting to business with a techno-esque drum beat and some darker and louder bass playing, which seem to envelop Chris' singing to a point where it almost sounds muffled. This, to me, it the grungiest song on "Need Not Apply" so far, and it captures some good aggression on all fronts, but the song did seem to end out of nowhere, and louder vocals in the mix would have been a big help. Tenth is "Commercial", a short punk rock original featuring spoken word lyrics in the guise of a television commercial. It's an interesting premise that I'd like to have seen expanded on, but the repetitive "Everybody smile" chorus and minimal lyrics don't support the theme as well as I'd have hoped. Musically, it's catchy and features solid bass playing though, so there's still a solid amount to like!

Then we have "Forged A Heart", which has a riff that's reminiscent of Black Sabbath's "Symptom of the Universe" and a unique layering of vocals, featuring Chris singing and speaking the exact same lyrics on top of each other. If I was him, I'd have had them following each other rather than simultaneous, but the song has a heavy crunch aside from that which works well for the song! It's probably the closest song on "Need Not Apply" to metal, so give it a look if you prefer that! Twelfth is "Go To Hell", which has a gritty intensity to it with pointed lyrics where Chris says the title to various establishments that he doesn't like. I could nitpick the sporadic spoken word vocals, but given the song's message and intent, it works out fine here, and the song's overall aggression and attitude make up lost ground, so this confrontational and angry song works in it's own way!

The CD closes with three songs in the 2 minute vicinity, including "The Way It Goes", a more energetic punk original with solid bass riffing and some of Chris' highest singing on the album so far, but some of his lyrics are mixed quietly, and the structure doesn't vary much from the norm. Solidly done, but not too groundbreaking from what came before it. That's followed by "Untitled", which has more of a laid back pleasant sound, mixing a mid-paced bass riff and a catchy drum beat on this second and final instrumental on this album. Also featuring some minimal guitar work, this is more of a change of pace, but fans hoping for an aggressive punk or grunge song will be disappointed. The song flows right into the album capper "ww3" though, which is laid back, largely rides the drum beat for it's melody, and is a nice upbeat closer, despite lyrics alluding to World War 3, a'la the title. Nice easy closer to this album!

So, what are my thoughts on Telephone & Address' new CD? In comparison to last year's "Rotten EP" (which we do hope to review on here in the future), I found "Need Not Apply" to be heavier, more substantial, and better recorded, and on it's own merits, it's a varied and well done collection of punk, grunge, and folk songs that serves as a successful do-it-yourself release! The nasal tone of Chris Shoust's vocals can be an acquired taste, but he can handle punk singing, spoken word, and more aggressive remarks (and social issue-laden lyrics) with ease, and his bass playing abilities are solid and add a heavier essence to this release than we've seen in the past. Telephone & Address is intended to be a lo-fi solo project, and this approach is very effective on songs like "Perfect Circle" and "Back To The Beginning", but I kept wondering throughout how these songs would sound with a full band, or at least electric guitar tracks laid over?

Some songs did meander too long without a lot of variance, and others ended too abruptly, but "Need Not Apply" is a nice heavier change of pace from Chris' earlier acoustic recordings, and it will be interesting to see what kinds of turns his solo music will take in the coming months! Contact Telephone & Address above to see about getting this CD, or stay tuned for their next live show! I hope you guys liked this month's CD review, and as for next month, it's up in the air right now given the planned releases of new Bear Hunters & AlgomA CDs (plus Northwest's new EP), but we'll keep you guys posted closer to Halloween on next month's review basis, and stay tuned for more news this week! Thanks everyone!

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