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
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