It's fairly common in music criticism to suggest
how a current band sounds like someone who came before. Previously
on EvilSponge, I've written that comparisons to Pavement are
so ubiquitous than that are meaningless. Likewise, I myself
have used comparisons ranging from the Archers
of Loaf to Bettie Serveert
to The Creation in my reviews. However, in listening to the
self-released Green Arke EP by The Transmissions,
I found myself making a new musical comparison. But more on
that in a minute.
Anyway, The Transmissions are a young band out of Southern
California. On this four song EP, they recorded as a three piece
combo consisting of the usual guitar, bass, and drums. Admittedly,
the recording itself suffers from many of the production flaws
you find in young bands: the vocals are way up front in the
mix, the bass is barely audible, and the drums only show up
sonically on some of the tracks. However, despite these flaws,
I can hear others' music in The Transmissions' work.
I first noticed this tendency on the first track, called Earthquake.
This song begins with some nice offbeat drumming and echoed
vocals in the post-punk vein before the music changes into a
more straight-up rock tune during the chorus, with the repeated
cry of "I'm not alright." The combination of these two distinct
musical elements creates something a little different in tone;
however, when I was listening to it, I could swear that the
bass-line seems vaguely familiar. But I wasn't able to place
the musical influence.
However, on the second song, I knew who The Transmissions reminded
me of: Modest Mouse. In fact, from the opening arpeggios of
Devil Song, I could swear I was listening to the long
lost brother of Dramamine (off Modest Mouse's 1996 album,
This is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think
About). I suppose this was bound to happen. Back when
I first heard them in 1996, Modest Mouse struck me as something
unusual. And with the critical acclaim of some of their later
albums, it shouldn't surprise me that bands would also find
the sound compelling. But this is the first time I've personally
heard a band I would term as Modest Mouse-influenced. And it's
sort of a weird thing, considering that with my hazy grasp of
time, I will always think of Modest Mouse as a "young band"
themselves and not as a group that might influence a new musical
generation of Indie Rock.
But I digress.
After Devil Song, I could hear the Modest Mouse influence
in the next tune, Leaving You Out. However, I pushed
those thoughts to the side, so that I could listen to this song
on its own merits. Unfortunately, although I liked the music,
Leaving You Out is the one song on which the production
problems overshadow my enjoyment of the music. For instance,
I rather like the sharp, hard drumming and the way the bass
line seems to hold everything together. But these touches are
more or less drowned out by the vocals. Likewise, the rhythm
change on the bridge on Leaving You Out should be the
focal point of the song, but it too is over-shadowed by the
vocals on that part of the song.
The final song on Green Arke is the mandatory
slow song, called Idle. Like the previous music, it too
has a Modest Mouse influence, especially in the Isaac Brock-like
vocals. Furthermore, the off-beat post-punk drumming masks the
fact that the music is a simple 4/4 riff, and not a more complex
time signature. This isn't a bad thing by any means; it's just
that I want The Transmissions to expand and reach (and perhaps
fail) instead of staying within the strict confines of normal
Anyway, my feeling on The Transmissions' Green Arke
EP is somewhat mixed. It is definitely very solid. The band
is clearly quite competent at their instruments and, despite
the overt musical influences, it's clear they know how to craft
a melody and then execute it. However, the Modest Mouse sound
is a bit overwhelming, especial on Devil Song, and distracts
from my ability to enjoy the EP. One hopes that, in the future,
The Transmissions will instead develop their own sound and branch
out further from their musical influences.