Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Telephone & Address - "Monster" Review!!

Now's a good time for our 105th monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene, as we're taking a look at local garage/lo-fi punk project Telephone & Address' fifth official CD "Monster"! Released via Harmisntus Productions on February 3rd after previously being announced back in March 2015, this is the first new Telephone & Address album in over a year, and resembles that release ("Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been...") in musical style. Telephone & Address are once again represented here by singer/guitarist Christopher Shoust on all instruments, and while Jackson Reed had joined on drums before the "Monster" release, the album was recorded well before his arrival. This album may have had some production input from AlgomA's Jamie Vincent too, based on Facebook postings in 2015, but he is not visibly credited in online copies. "Monster" can be bought for $10 or streamed for free on their Bandcamp page, and while physical copies would likely cost $15, Telephone & Address have not not yet confirmed a CD release.

Featuring 13 songs running for about 44 minutes in length, let's begin this review with the first song, "Line"! Definitely in the spirit of Telephone & Address' lo-fi roots, this song has a simple guitar riff paired with well suited drumming, the song fits with the band's established sound for non-acoustic releases! Chris' vocals take on an impassioned if nasally vibe, which fits the song but can be somewhat muddled in the mix here. My biggest issue with the song was the persistent hissing noise in the background, which sounds like someone left a faucet going in another room, but the song works well for Telephone & Address loyalists! Second is "White Noise", which musically sounds like a late 1960s classic rock song in structure, which isn't a bad thing! Despite the title, this song doesn't have deliberate white noise (at least in the foreground), and it has a lively vibe that puts Chris' distinctive vocals to good use! Though very lo-fi in recording style, it's a good contrast, and it's a fun song at this early stage of "Monster"!

The next track is "Can't You See This Is The End", which runs for an album-low 2 minutes on the dot. The opening 30 seconds is just a slow and isolated guitar performance, but when the song proper finally kicks into gear, it takes a 180 degree turn into a speed punk blitz devoid of any drums. Despite the jarring shift in tone, I like where the song's going, and it's arguably one of Telephone & Address' heaviest recorded songs, but it feels very unfinished. Drums and more varied lyrics would go a long way here, but when it's on, it's on! Next is "I Can Bleed", which was notably the only song posted online before the album's release. Drums are back here, and in a loud, catchingly rhythmic fashion, which is nice to hear! The song proper is mid-tempo but suitably dramatic with strong deliberate singing, and a steady riff that matches up well with everything! So far, this song would work the best in a non-lo-fi setting, if that makes sense, and despite an abrupt ending, it works well!

"Rejection" is next, which has another dramatic rhythm from it's guitar and bass work, but here, it's almost more evil sounding, and that's not a bad thing! If anything, Chris' vocals on the chorus sound forced when trying to match the song's emotions, and the song itself seems to get stuck in autopilot after a while without really breaking from the existing riffs and structure. I like where this song was going, and it's well performed, but it could use more variance and shifts to it's structure. Then we have "In The Gut", which is a faster paced punk number that seems to overdo the cymbals, but will definitely please fans of Telephone & Address' more punk-based tracks! This track has a fun vibe, isn't overlong, and the vocals are a good fit melodically, so this is another solid inclusion as we near the midpoint!

Seventh is the longest track on "Monster", the near seven minute long "Bang, Bang, Bang". The song begins in full gear with a mid-paced, heavy but not punishing rhythm with more muted singing, steady drumming, and more of a clear recording quality than on some of it's sister tracks! That said, the song is basically one short track that winds to a close, then suddenly restarts after brief silence, only to repeat that cycle two more times. The four chunks have some differences, but it strikes me as padding to basically repeat one 1:40 track four times and call it one song (though it is solidly performed!) Next is "Why Did You Fuck Up & Die?" (they titled it, not me!), which begins with pounding drums and melodic guitar work, which contrast fairly well with the angry lyrics and recitations of the song's title. The lo-fi recording helps set the mood particularly well here, and while the song does get a little repetitive by the end, it's an effective and to the point track!

Song #9 is "You Need", which feels like Chris had an acoustic number upgraded to electric status, thanks to it's casual, vocal-driven sound and airy yet gritty melodies. Similarly to "Bang, Bang, Bang", this song likes doing the "mini song, silent break, repeat" structure, but with a much shorter run-time, this only happens twice, which flows better and feels less like it's being padded out. It's a good song, but there are prior tracks I like more for the themes and instrumentation. Next up is "I'm Gone", which opens with seemingly programmed drums, simple yet distorted guitar, and unpolished singing that sounds almost like it's being sung in a trance come the choruses' lyric repetition. I can't deny this song's catchy qualities, and it almost has a grunge essence to boot, so this isn't a bad track at this late stage either!

Then we have "Outside", which is another of this album's more punk-influenced songs. The cymbals are slightly overdone again, but the guitar work is well suited to the structure, the vocals are a great fit in this form factor, and the length is perfect without the song getting too repetitive! Nothing too shocking to report, just a quality punk song from Telephone & Address that gets the job done without any undue risks! The album's penultimate song is "Spacious", which is also the only instrumental on "Monster". Thankfully, this isn't quite a reversion to the highly experimental "Rust Orchid" album, as it still has an outsider punk theme. If anything, it's a little more spacey, with some more psychedelic guitar riffing, which pairs well with the rhythm section, and while the lack of vocals is somewhat noticeable, the song has enough variance and melody to get by without it. I do prefer Telephone & Address with vocals, but for what this is, it's not badly performed at all!

The album closes with it's title track, "Monster", which has a bit of a Renderware quality to it, if that's fair to say. The song maintaining a steady rhythm and approach that is catchy, but always seems like the verses are drifting off as they're sung, almost like Chris is losing interest (though I'm sure that's not the case.) The accidental malaise aside, this is a well performed song, but it's abrupt ending and lack of varied emotions doesn't quite end the album on a high note.

So, what are my final thoughts on Telephone & Address' long awaited new album? Overall, it's a strong album that builds upon what Chris Shoust did on "Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been...", with stronger instrumentation, less repetitive lyrics, and a better value for your dollar! As I've noted before, the lo-fi recording style and Chris' often nasally vocals won't be for everyone, but there is fun to be had here, with tracks like "I Can Bleed", "In The Gut", and "Outside" showing his fuller musical abilities well! There's enough of a genre spread here to please many fans, but the album still has some repetition and abrupt song endings to keep in mind, and "Bang, Bang, Bang" still feels like the same song repeated four times. The recording quality works for the genres on display and is recorded as such, so don't let that stop you from listening. I'm curious to hear what Chris has in store, especially with Jackson now in the fold, but give "Monster" a listen at the above links, and/or buy it today!

I hope you guys liked this month's CD review! Next month, as part of our continued 2018 stretch of new album reviews, we will be looking at local/St. Catharine's grindcore trio Shit Liver's second original album "Hitting The Fan", in honour of it's release a couple of weeks ago and it's local release tour stop at The Algonquin Pub next month, so look for it in April, and stay tuned for more news and previews on here soon! Thanks everyone!

1 comment:

Christopher Shoust said...

Thanks for the review Rob! Fine job as always!