The Cold After are one of the increasing number
of shoegazer-influenced, vaguely darkwave bands coming out of
Florida (see also: Mira, Isobella).
In general, this scene continues to impress. However, i gotta
ask -- what's up with this name? Is it "The Cold After standing
in the rain for three hours"? "The Cold After staying out drinking
for 5 nights in a row"? "The Cold After death"? The phrase is
too vague in it's meaning. But that's a minor complaint.
In general this young band (click
here to see a scan of their promo shot) show promise. Their
song-writing, while not the most original i have ever heard,
shows a certian level of competence that exceeds a lot of bands.
Their musicianship is also pretty sharp, even if they stick
within the obscure "dark shoegazer" genre. The failings i chock
up to youth. In time, they will evolve as musicians.
In listening to this album i was struck by the obvious training
of pianist David Dial. He really seems to know what he is doing.
What impresses me most is that his choice of keyboard patches
often sound organ-y. That combined with his semi-classical "my
mom made me take lessons for 12 years" style of playing combine
to remind me of Felt. Yes, Felt -- that amazing and criminally
under-rated 80's new wave band. I love those guys, and on songs
like The Cold and To Drown, the slower pace and
intricate melodies remind me of Felt. And both of these songs
feature very lovely melodies, much like the real stunner of
the disc, Baltimore. Yet another Felt-like tune, this
one is a nice combination of synths, high-pitched guitar, and
The guitar of Scott Sweeney is not to be denied either. The
guitar is flat and vaguely tinny -- an early 80's post-punk
style of playing. It shines on Fleeting, and kicks Baltimore
off with a guitar arpeggio worthy of Marty Wilson-Piper.
In general The Cold After have a real talent for writing catchy
pseudo-goth numbers. I bet they are a blast in concert.
However, despite my praise for the band and their apparent
talent, you will notice that the album is rated somewhat low.
That is because The Cold After make The Two Classic Errors of
New Bands Who Are Unfamiliar With the Studio. Let me go over
these, and use The Cold After as my unwitting example.
Mistake # 1: Under-recording the drums
The drums on this album sound as if the drummer was playing
inside of a cardboard box in a utility closet down the hall
from the rest of the band. I am not a sound engineer, but my
experience has led me to believe that recording drums so that
they sound clear, yet do not overpower all of the other instruments,
is The Most Difficult Thing in Music.
So you have to choose: clear drums that are LOUD, or fuzzy
drums that do not overpower the rest of the instruments. The
Cold After chose the latter option, and this seems to be common
with bands these days. (This same difficulty affected the
latest Sharks and Minnows disc as well.)
Mistake # 2: Placing the voice way out front
I know that singers spend a lot of time working on their lyrics.
I understand that the denotative meaning of the words in the
vocals is the clearest chance that any band gets to explain
their worldview and opinions in no uncertain terms. And yet...
so few people are Dante Aligheri. And i don't listen to music
for the opinions expressed therein (although i know people who
My point here is that The Cold After place the vocals of Wendy
Wallace way out in front of their music. Yes, music is three-dimensional.
In this band, the drums are furthest away from the listener,
then come all of the other instruments clustered together in
space, then in front and nearest the listener is the voice.
Now, Ms. Wallace has a fine voice, and although she seems a
little unsure at times, on the whole she does pretty well. And
lyrically she is, indeed, no Dante Aligheri. But who is? Her
lyrics aren't as bad as those of, say, Oasis -- in fact i would
place her in the top 50% of lyricists. And again -- that might
be an age thing, since she looks very young and therefore would
have limited experiences about which to write.
However -- her voice does not need to be out front. I am of
the opinion that a voice is an instrument, and in well-produced
music the voice is on par with the other instruments. I suppose
that, to go back to my three-dimensional model of sound -- i
would like to see the band arrayed out in front of me in a semi-circle.
At times, any one instrument can overpower the others, but in
general there is sonic balance.
So, to sum up: The Cold After are a young band with some talent.
They show potential. However, they obviously have no idea how
to record themselves in a studio, and that makes this album
a lot weaker than i imagine their live shows would be. I urge
them to hire an actual producer next time, and to get out of
Florida and play Atlanta sometime soon.
Still, if you find yourself desperate for something to listen
to while you continue to wait (and wait and wait) for Mira
to release something again, this album will at least tide you