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  Kill the Messenger  
  The Indicators  
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Following a relatively new local band is sometimes like being team mother for the Bad News Bears.

When I first hear a band that seems to have potential, I think, ďYou know, I canít put my finger on exactly what it is, but they may have something hereÖĒ However, their early live shows and first album are rough, clunky, and stylistically all over the map. Every performance is like a baseball game -- I hold my breath as it begins, hoping they donít drop the ball. I applaud louder than anyone, even when they do. Defying the skeptical looks of friends and critics, I keep supporting the band.

Then, over the course of a year or so, the various talents begin to fuse, creating a more unified sound and stage presence. Eventually, if the band members can survive near-fatal mishaps and work out creative and personality differences, the collection of musicians morph into a nearly symbiotic entity. And, if Iím lucky, thereís a final post-season triumph that makes all the late nights of alcohol and blind encouragement worthwhile.

As luck would have it, one of my favorite local bands, The Indicators, have done just that. Their sophomore CD release, Kill the Messenger, is one of the strongest albums from the Atlanta music scene Iíve heard in awhile. It is a record of a band in progress, a band that has evolved immensely in two years from a rather haphazard trio of individuals to a flexible, productive quartet. Their first album, Beauty is a Whore, often felt more like a showpiece for Mike Goldmanís guitar-pop songwriting and Dave McNairís high-speed covers than it did an ensemble effort. This second release is much better blended and mixed, including integral musical contributions from all members of the band.

Kill the Messenger also marks a shift in style for The Indicators, from the garage rock of Beauty is a Whore, to a more countrified roots-rock sound. With the addition of guitarist/songwriter Ken Morton, the tunes often resemble recent work by The Drive-by Truckers and Slobberbone. Mortonís voice, in fact, sounds much like Mike Cooley, with a similar gritty, heart-breaking lyrical style. Eye Spy plays with tempo and vocals to produce a strong rock anthem, while Open Road is a mature travel-epic that one could easily mistake for a Willie Nelson cover. Goldmanís songwriting shifts somewhat for this album as well, with songs that often remind the listener of melodic travel ditties and drawling vocal harmonies a la The Bodeans. Two of the most roots-pop songs on the album, Easier to Find and Say Goodnight, most directly evidence this stylistic shift.

Although Kill the Messenger certainly signals a change in musical direction for the band, Dave McNairís cover of I Got a Line on You (by Spirit) is a direct reminder of The Indicatorsí previous wiz-bang garage rock, sounding more like a live track than anything else on the album. It also reminds the listener that The Indicators are still a collective work in progress and not a fully collaborative project. Like many bands at this stage, most songs bear the distinct signature mark of one individual memberís lyrical and melodic approach. Ironically, the albumís first track, I Guess By Now comes closest to melding the best of their talents, hinting at more integrated work in the future.

Perhaps the albumís greatest strength is its thoughtful composition and meticulous arrangement. Recorded by Rob Gal at the Snack Ďní Shack studio, Kill the Messenger is actually one of the best-mixed releases Iíve heard from a DIY band on an obscure label. Adding to the sophisticated presentation are small, impressive musical touches sprinkled throughout Kill the Messenger. Most notable are the vocal and instrumental guest appearances by other locals like Rob Rushin, Murray Attaway, and members of Charm School, to name just a few. Several close listens will also reveal a revitalized bass presence provided by new band member, Michael Arnett, as well as other delicately placed instrumental accompaniments, including short piano sequences interlaced throughout many tracks and (my personal favorite) a whisper of sweet mandolin to begin Say Goodnight.

Indeed, though The Indicators may not be quite ready for the majors, theyíve pulled together a season-ending showstopper that testifies to a year of hard work and passion. And, as the band matures, I look forward to an even more collaborative team effort that brings together their obvious talents and musical knowledge. Now, Iím off to scout for another new local band to follow.

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