night during summer 2001 i wandered into a show not knowing
what to expect from the opener. They were called The Potomac
Accord, and they blew me away live, putting on a deeply passionate
and energetic show. Later, i went to see them when
they wandered back through Atlanta, just to see if they
could pull it off again. And they did, turning in one of the
best performances of 2002 on a cold night in a mostly empty
And now it is time for me to review the album. And, well, it's
not as good as their live shows. I know that this is true of
a lot of bands, but i think it is especially true of The Potomac
You see, their music is bleak. It is dark, cold, and lonely.
It is music that screams from loss and pain. Live, the sheer
energy of the performance makes this bleakness a wonderful thing
to see. Live, the band build the music into a frenzy that leads
The album fails to do that for me. It is dark, and there is
no end to the darkness. It's too bleak. So it's hard to listen
Oh sure, there are some lovely sounds on here. The Potomac
Accord are three very talented musicians building songs out
of bass, piano, guitar, voice, samples, and drums. For a self-released
record it is amazingly well-produced. Each instrument is in
balance with the others, and none overpowers the whole (except
when it is obviously planned), and none gets lost.
But a lot of the emotionality, the real passion that the band
members pour into their performace, that is missing here. And
that is a tragedy. If i had heard this disc first, i might have
been less inclined to go see them. Having been to see them,
i am less inclined to listen to the disc because it fails to
capture the sheer beauty and majesty of The Potomac Accord.
That said, there are two songs (out of the seven featured here)
that seem to work a little better than the others. These include
When I'm Gone This Will All Be Yours and Mail From
the Queen of the West Lawrence Social Alliance.
When I'm Gone This Will All Be Yours features some really
nice piano work, and ends with a stunning sequence of staccato
hits from piano and drums, the repetetive broken rhythm stirring
my mind to think of my own mortality. It's a really energetic
tune, and the one that comes closest to catching what i know
they are capable of doing live.
Mail From the Queen of the West Lawrence Social Alliance
takes their basic sound of piano, bass, and drums and adds some
horns and vocal harmonies. This is different for them, and i
really enjoy the horn work and the harmony. I think those two
elements add an interesting contrast to their overall work,
and break up the album a bit. This is a good tune, and very
well might be the standout of the whole disc.
There are two other tracks that are noteworthy: one because
it reminds me of Godspeed You Black
Emperor, and one because it givesme the willies. These two
songs wrap up the album and are called All Eyes on Me
and Of Plagarism and Flattery, repectively. Both feature
a background vocal sample under the complex bass-piano-drum
interplay of The Potomac Accord.
All Eyes on Me also has some violin sound layered in
there -- although it might just be a part of the sample, i can't
tell. Still, it's a nice effect that adds some depth to the
music. At any rate, the sample adds a layer of depth that reminds
me of GYBE. I do not mean to imply that on this song The Potomac
Accord come across as an apocalyptice neo-orchestra, but rather
that their use of a vocal sample behind the rest of the music
reminds me of what GYBE did on BBF3 off of the Slow
Riot for New Zero Kanada EP.
Anyway, moving right along, Of Plagarism and Flattery
is the live stunner of the bunch. I remember standing and staring
in awe as they performed this the
first time i saw them, my jaw resting on the filthy floor
of The Earl. This song meanders along nicely, building tension,
and then positively explodes into sonic fury, with the vocalist
leaning back from his mic screaming his pain and angst at the
world. Stunningly well done. On album they combine this with
a nifty saxaphone bit and some layered samples.
This is the song that creeps me out -- when he screams on the
album, rather than feeling catharsis, i am chilled in my bones.
I can sense his overwheling pain, but for some reason i have
failed to connect with it. This is a limitation of recording
technology i think, or maybe of the way the song was recorded.
I am not sure, because the recording sounds nicely balanced
and very listenable, but something is missing. I can't put my
finger on it, but there is something that i am not getting here.
And the fact that "something" is missing is fundamentally
disapponting to me. I don't know what it is that's missing,
but by golly i want it. And that is why it is hard for
me to listen to this album. However, i suspect that if i had
never seen the band, and instead had simply picked up the album,
i would be entranced by this song. And it is a damn fine song,
despite the residual creepiness, and is still very powerful.
So, my overall verdict on The Potomac Accord is to run, don't
walk, to your nearest Indie club when they come through your
town, and see them in all of their magnificent glory. That is
the way this music really needs to be heard.
Silver Line on a Black Sea is good, just not
AS good as their live performances. Which leaves me with a real
conundrum here -- Brendan insists that i put a numerical rating
on the disc, and i honestly cannot decide. It's a fascinating
disc, but it could be better by bringing The Potomac Acord into
my living room and giving me that truly wonderful performance
that they are capable of. How do you rate that? How do i put
a numerical value on that?
Well, i have decided to give the album 5 sponges. It's a fine
peice of work from an amazing band. It could be better -- i
don't know how, but i am sure that it could be.