The Front

The Bradbury Press

Independent release, 2005

http://myspace.com/thebradburypress

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/11/2005

I don't know if you could call it a trend just yet, but it's at least worth mentioning that two of the more intriguing entries among the latest batch of indie-rock discs I've been listening to recently play down the traditional rock and roll subject matter of love and relationships in favor of more worldly, philosophical lyrics.

Of course, once you've named your band The Bradbury Press, you pretty much have to bring some substance to your game if you want to be taken seriously.

Nobody's laughing here. This Seattle-based quartet has created an interesting, engaging, even thought-provoking album in The Front. Building off an acoustic base in the manner of Dave Matthews or early Counting Crows, the Press -- Darren Golden on vocals and acoustic guitar, Dave Brewer on lead guitar and vocals, Travis Hartman on bass and Greg Garcia on drums -- craft an album's worth of intelligent, tuneful roots-rock. The genre might be labeled melodic Americana, basic guitar-bass-drums arrangements with occasional piano and Hammond accents. There's also a Michael Stipe influence evident in the steely intensity of Golden's lead vocals.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Best of all, though, are the smart and sometimes wry lyrics of tracks like "Dive," in which the breaking-free Golden declares (among other things) "I got tired of preachers who didn't know what the hell they were talking about." Musically the song has a bit of a Shawn Mullins feel with its spoken word verses telling an oblique story full of symbolism and allegory before kicking into the soaring, purposeful chorus "I'm gonna dive / To change my life."

Later on "Drown" offers a tight, dark little number whose dense, exotic feel, double-time tempo and eerie melody reek of Dave Matthews, complete with spidery Boyd Tinsley-ish picking and tremendous vocal intensity on a downbeat lyric about "drowning in the water" of loneliness.

For contrast, they follow with "Running Through My Mind," a superb, steady-building, beautiful mid-tempo love song that sounds like acoustic R.E.M. crossed with early Jayhawks, and fits like a comfy shirt. Brewer takes on lead vocal duties for a pair of similarly upbeat tunes, "Better Day" and "Falling Up," featuring uplifting, lilting melodies that feel familiar but are brand new.

Other notes: Jason Homey contributes some smoking electric banjo (no, really, it's very cool…) on the aptly-named "Country Ditty," bringing the band's alt-country influences to the forefront. "Ditty" and "Where Do We Go" are also perhaps the most relationship-focused tunes here, albeit ones examining missed connections and other misunderstandings.

"Domino," one of the most interesting cuts here, plays on the old sci-fi conceit explored in Back To The Future, The Butterfly Effect and a hundred short stories, about how each small choice we make shapes and changes our entire future. "We create tomorrow with every breath we take / Every choice is a domino" goes the chorus of this brooding, well-crafted tale of fate and consequence.

The occasional lyrical stumble aside -- which I'd ascribe to trying too hard -- The Front is a very strong album, a musical suite that runs ribbons of melancholy through a steady undercurrent of optimism and intelligence. This mature, perceptive disc left me feeling better than when I started, and looking forward to hearing much more from The Bradbury Press in the future.

Rating: B+

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