...Said The Quiet Hands
REVIEW BY: Jedediah Pressgrove
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/11/2011
I was close to dismissing ...Said the Quiet Hands after a few listens, but it became apparent that the Alaska foursome is talented and listenable. They have potential.
I like the intent to be a better band. Lead singer Tyrell Tompkins told Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that the songs on ...Said the Quiet Hands were once “extreme” progressive rock songs before they were rewritten. The EP as it stands is concise indie pop, with only one song past the four-minute mark. Now I’m not saying that progressive rock inherently sucks, but after years of listening to it and picking out the best parts of long-ass songs, I think there’s not much one can do that Yes or Pink Floyd didn’t do better.
Even though LaVoy is heading in the right direction, the EP seems to share a weakness with a lot of progressive rock: lack of emotion. That’s not to say the band always fails in this respect, but many times, all I’m hearing is a solid band and nothing else. While I appreciate the fact that Tompkins can enunciate his lyrics better than many other singers, the words are often silly or vague. This is especially problematic in that LaVoy could be more original (I hear significant traces of The Shins, Modest Mouse, and Portugal. The Man). Unlike a great band like The National, LaVoy usually doesn’t set itself apart lyrically.
Take “The Lord Works In Mysterious Ways.” In the first verse, Tompkins says "My tongue is a murderer on the loose / Darling, I’m sure to offend you” twice as a bluesman would, but the effect is inert because Tompkins is simply singing and not conveying a particular emotion or point. Give this line to Elvis Costello and you’ll get every word along with a nice dose of anger or something. Most of the lyrics in the song are just as awkward, such as “I’m a soldier, the devil’s coming for me / Fight the fire, fire, I can hardly breathe” and “I’ve come so far / Just to fall back down again.” This stuff reminds me of the worst parts of church camp.
But I can’t deny what these guys have going for them. “Bootstraps, Bootstraps” and “Sailor & The Monster” are the two best tracks and bring to mind my favorite Modest Mouse album, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. “Bootstraps, Bootstraps” has a moving bridge in which Tompkins summons the maniacal tone of Isaac Brock, and “Sailor & The Monster” features guitarist Sean Riley’s best playing as Tompkins illustrates his confusion and disappointment. Finally, drummer Kipp Riley’s importance to the band cannot be overstated. His work with the hi-hat is particularly tasteful on “Sailor & The Monster.” I understand from the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman that Riley also plays the keyboard, so I assume he did all the keys for this EP, but I don’t know for sure.
One can sense LaVoy wants to keep improving as a band, and that’s reassuring given the weaknesses of this EP. But even at their worst, they’re still catchy. In 2009 the band released the full-length We Met In The Arts. I am curious to see whether it shows the progress that can be made.