I have a question. I read a lot of music history texts, and it seems that what usually happens is this:
- A group of people meet up and form a band.
- They hammer out a few tunes in someone's garage/basement/tenement/favorite pub's basement.
- They get a few gigs around their hometown.
- Their live sets energize people, and eventually they go into the studio to record.
- Classic albums ensue.
Or at least, that is how it is supposed to work, right? If that is so, then why does the following seem to be the formula that many bands in the Atlanta/Athens area seem to use:
- Meet and form band.
- Go into the studio and write tracks while at the same time producing your first album, so that you have merch to sell when you eventually play out.
- Market album to local and/or international (depending on your ego) labels.
- Start playing shows.
- Realize that what you recorded worked great in the sterile environment of the studio, but doesn't work so great in front of 100 slightly drunk indie rockers at The EARL who are really waiting for the headliner to go on anyway.
Why do people do it that way? Why why why? (Brendan's Note: I blame the relative cheapness of home recording equipment.) What is wrong with people in our town? Here is a hint, folks: if you are not an electronica act, you have no business whatsoever going into a recording studio until you have played 10 shows, minimum. And by show, I do not mean "we played in the living room of our communal house to a crowd consisting of our girlfriends and our cats" -- that doesn’t count. A show is in a real club in front of real human beings who do not know you.
Urgh. Sometimes, this really frustrates me.
I present you with exhibit A: Creve Coeur. (See also, the first American Dream album.) Creve Coeur consists of Brian Fisher and Ryan Holmes, who met up, formed a band, and recorded this EP. Later, they hired a drummer, a bassist, and a keyboardist, started playing out, and really changed their sound. I have seen Creve Coeur live, within a few weeks of writing this, and i have to tell you that this CD, which they are currently selling at shows, doesn't really sound like them anymore. Oh sure, they do the songs on the CD in concert, but, on the disc, the bass and drums are anemic, sickly things, almost afterthoughts to the work of the two guitarists. Live though, bassist Jennifer Hicks and drummer Cory Prough lay down a deep groove. Ms. Hicks' presence is all the more necessary because the genre that Fisher and Holmes seek to be in, specifically the post-punk genre, is a bass heavy genre. That is, you cannot, and i can't stress this enough, you cannot be a post-punk band without a real live bassist. Period. Disagree with me, and i'll send Peter Hook around to kick you!
So, my advice to a beginning Creve Coeur would have been, "You've got some good songs. Hire a rhythm section, and play out for a few months, see how the songs do in a concert situation. Then go into the recording studio..." You see, i honestly think that if they had done that, they would have a much stronger debut EP.
Because the thing is, Fisher and Holmes obviously know what the heck they are doing, and they can write a good song. The guitarwork on this disc is great, it is recorded well and it really works for post-punk. Think the guitars on the first Interpol album here, especially the noisier numbers, or maybe Wire's Read and Burn 02, and you won't be too far off. The vocals are pretty good too, not out of place for the genre. It is the bass and drums that weakens everything, and that ruins a lot of the effect, because rhythm is, after all, the very foundation upon which rock music is constructed.
There is one notable exception: Offset (Jealousy Careless). This song sounds like it has actual basswork and an honest to goodness sweating drummer playing on it, and that makes all the difference. This is by the far the best tune on this CD, because it is the most organic sounding. I really like the Gang of 4 style guitar hits on this song, the noodling keyboards, and the way the voices just explode on the chorus. This is, actually, a really damned fine tune, and it is a shame that it's the only one on the EP that they got right.
There is another noteworthy (not perfect, but still noteworthy) track, The Villain. The rhythm here still sounds flat and weak, but something in the keyboards and the vocal stylings really make this sound like a Cars tune. And I mean that in a good way.
Overall, this isn't a bad EP. Really. The songwriting is pretty good, and the recording is decent. Too many of the songs sound sterile because of the half-thought-out rhythm portions of the music, and that is a damned shame. Creve Couer are making the rounds of Atlanta clubs, and i recommend you go see them. This music comes across very well in concert, better than it does here. And the fact that the promise which their live show holds is missed by the EP is fundamentally disappointing. To me at least, it might not bother you i suppose. At any rate, be on the look out for the second release form Creve Coeur -- i have a good feeling about it.