Body

Zyrah's Orange

Independent release, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/06/2000

It's probably a coincidence, but in the last year (and particularly since Phish announced they were taking a breather) I've been hearing from many jam-oriented bands. And while many of the groups I've heard have promise, none of them have seemed ready to challenge Phish for the throne, even while it's temporarily vacated.

Add Zyrah's Orange to this list. Their second album Body shows that this three-piece has the jamming arts down almost perfectly, but they still need a coat of paint or two when it comes down to vocal-based songs.

The band - guitarist/vocalist Elliot Page, bassist/vocalist Ben Thibault and drummer Dan Gullotti - seems to be torn between being an acoustic-based alternative rock band and a jazzy groove-oriented trio. The sad thing is that, as an alternative band, Zyrah's Orange is at their weakest. The prime example of this is heard in the album's two opening tracks, "Best Day" and "Satisfied," tracks which almost suggest that the group is a bit listless, drifting towards an unknown musical goal. That is the kind of uncertainty that I don't need to hear right off the bat.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Fortunately, Body quickly gets into the groove - and when they get locked in it, you find yourself hoping it won't end. "Messages" features an almost Violent Femmes-like vocal style, and is a decent enough introduction to the band's skill on their instruments, but it is the following track "Message Machine" that gives the band some room to really cook. Page occasionally has a Trey Anastasio-type style to his playing; it is exciting to hear him in action.

Likewise, Thibault is a talented bassist, and is able to make his skills heard on "Maceo," on which he makes his bass solo sound like he's playing a regular guitar. I've always been envious of bassists who had such skill in playing their instruments, and I can now add Thibault to that list.

Had Zyrah's Orange kept the bulk of Body in the jazz-rock format (not at all dissimilar to the work of Jeff Beck at times), this album could have been killer. But the band is still kind of feeling their way through being an alternative band, and songs like "Fire Engine" are proof that their journey is not complete. (And while the band promotes their three-part vocal harmonies, my take is that they need to develop said harmonies more.)

The other thing that bothers me a little bit on Body is the occasional rough feel to the music's sound. You can pick up a little of that on "Best Day" - almost as if there was some distortion in the mix. And why they bring that distortion to the forefront on "Leave" - an otherwise pretty song - is unfathomable. Sorry, guys, you're not Nine Inch Nails.

Still, there is a lot of promise that one can hear on Body, and Zyrah's Orange, to date, has the best chance of unseating Phish for the title of jam-band king - namely by beating them at their own game.

Rating: B-

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