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  Find Yourself Along The Way  
  The Meeting Places  
  Words on Music  
Release Date:
  early summer 2003  
Reviewed by:

I was listening to this album when Tracers came to pick me up to go grab sushi with Ploof and Zythos. "What's this?" she asked.

"It's a new promo we just got. I kinda like it."

She looks at the press sheet. "Ah. It's got a member of Alison's Halo in it. You liked them right?"

"Yeah," i say, as i grab the press sheet that i had yet to look at from her and give it a quick once over. Well whaddaya know, Scott McDonald was, in fact, in Alison's Halo, one of the best shoegazer bands of the early 90's. He is not, however, vocalist Catherine Cooper, nor guitar god Adam Cooper. "Oh," i say, "it's the other guy from Alison's Halo. I had thought that Adam and Catherine were still making crappy pop in Chicago, and when you said Alison's Halo i got confused for a second...."

Tracers snickers. "It's usually not a good thing to be 'the band with the other guy'!"

I nod, pet the cat on her head, and we leave to ingest trendy, yet cheapily priced, Japanese food, and to imbibe beer. A pretty standard night for the Minions.

The next day, as i sit again listening to the toe-tapping rhythms and luscious "wall of guitar noise" melodies of The Meeting Places, i am suddenly struck with the thought that it does not always suck to be "the band with the other guy". For example, i find that Christian Savill, who was the other guy in Slowdive, is currently making more interesting music than the country-folk drivel that Neal Halsted has degenerated into.

I think that, in our case, the entire other guy phenomenon stems from the splintering of Duran Duran in the mid 80's. Do you remember Power Station? That was a Duranie band. But not the singer, no he was in Arcadia. Instead, we took to referring to Power Station as having "some of the other guys". And actually, now that i think about it, Power Station was better than Arcadia... Okay, i confess, i have no idea where this thing comes from. Maybe from our experience with Ladies Night (ick), which features Justin Hughes, who was the other guy in local heroes The Rock*a*teens. Who knows? The point is this: don't let their status as 'the band with the other guy' keep you away from The Meeting Places.

You see, The Meeting Places are continuing the work of Alison's Halo, while the Cooper's nest and work on INSTA, their Chicago-based, quite generic, pop outfit. Meanwhile, McDonald is still slugging it out in the shoegazer trenches, fighting the good fight for noisy beauty and distorted melody!

Indeed, The Meeting Places are the logical successors to Alison's Halo. Not in the vocals mind you (vocalist Chase Harris sings with a more understated, well, maleness to him than Catherine Cooper could muster), but in the swirling guitars, propulsive rhythms, and general depth to the songs.

These songs are layers deep: guitars echo and cascade for miles. Especially on Blur the Lines, where the guitars meet an almost Jesus & Mary Chain level of overdrivenness.

And in general, the music is catchy. There is more Verve and Jesus and Mary Chain and Spaceman 3 in this shoegazing than there is Cocteau Twins or Slowdive. The songs move along with definite purpose, and although the distortion is ever-present it never approaches "ambient" status. Overall, the guitars echo on top of a very solid foundation of bass and drums. In particular, On Your Own and Wide Awake strand out as toe-tapping, head bopping goodness.

The only negative comment i have is on the vocals. I said earlier that Harris is somewhat understated in his singing style, and by that i meant that the vocals are in the mix, not in front of it. He sort of mumbles, or half-talks. He does not try to yell over the guitars (a wise decision, in my opinion). The somewhat insubstantial nature of the vocals might bother some listeners, but not this white boy. I like the half-heard lyric, buried in a fog of guitarwork, and i hate it when people with average voices (and Harris's voice is, like most, average) try and beat me over the head with their singing. So, Harris's vocals work for me, but your mileage may vary.

Overall, this is a fun release. If you like old-school shoegazing, and you know you do, then this is an excellent purchase. And maybe, just maybe, McDonald will be able to motivate his old buddies the Cooper's into doing something worthwhile with their time...

Related Links:

Since i talked so much about Alison's Halo in this review, here is a review of the 8Bit EP, after Alison's Halo had pretty much shrunk down to just the Coopers.


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