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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Hey Mercedes
Everynight Fire Works
Vagrant Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Now that it's finally here, was this record worth the wait? Well, I guess that depends on what you were waiting for. If you've been waiting for the salvation of rock and roll, the answer is clearly NO. If you've been waiting for Vagrant's latest project to burst out of the gates and fall flat on their faces, the answer is the same NO, perhaps a bit more resounding.

"Hope for the best, expect the worst" - a phrase I picked up somewhere along the road to adulthood that has come in quite handy. Hey Mercedes' debut full length isn't the first album to which I've applied the optimistic approach, but it is one of the most recent. I've been expecting the worst since July and hoping for the best the whole time. Now that its here I can certainly tell you that, aside from perhaps RFTC's Group Sounds, Everynight Fire Works is the best album that Vagrant has put out to date, packed from beginning to end with slickness, a furiously catchy, meaty guitar sandwich squished into a vegan friendly compact disc.

This album is so well played that not even the traditional dumbing down of the guitar mix by J Robbins' recording techniques could stifle it. But it's not for lack of trying - as with every guitar based band that Robbins records, the details are almost drown out with the beefing up of guitar chords. I'm sure the mix is intentional, but I'd rather hear the droning guitar pitch (allowed to shine on "Que Shiraz") pushed forward rather than dumped in the background. Not every band needs to sound exactly like Burning Airlines, and Hey Mercedes certainly benefit from giving each guitar its own, distinct voice.

In all honesty I wasn't smitten with their debut, but Hey Mercedes have thoroughly floored me with this album, proving that increased technicality and advanced production don't have to translate into boring, homogenous commercial rock. In fact, it is the increasing complexity of the guitars, coupled with a more streamlined approach by the rhythm section, that makes this album tick, perhaps best exemplified by "Our Weekend Starts on Wednesday". The album rolls on, through eleven tracks total, without ever really stopping for breath. There are lulls, such as the evenly-paced "Haven't Been This Happy" and "Quit", but the stepping up of Bob Nanna and Mark Dawursk's guitars is what separates Hey Mercedes from the hordes of melodic punk bands that rely on the same old tricks to get by. When a band can play their instruments and effectively create with them they are freed from the template constraints of volume and dynamics, and it's nice to see a band developing a louder and more intense sound rather than going in the opposite direction, as most do.

The guitars are loud, yes, but they would be useless without the impeccable drumming of Damon Atkinson and the nimble bass of Todd Bell. The low end knows when to fill and when to bleed, possessing an ability to see the big picture and play the team game that is lost on most. The only real complaint on this album is the closer, "Let's Go Blue", which I think could have stopped at the 3:15 mark and been a great song, but instead it is interrupted with an unnecessary bass interlude that sounds like a discarded bit from a jam session, and then continues to unravel itself in less than dramatic fashion. It's not really a disaster, but it isn't really how I would have envisioned an otherwise solid album ending.

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other reviews by Eric J Herboth



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