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  The Cold After  
  The Cold After  
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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 plodding bass.

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 do).

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 over.

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