Fast, Long, Loud
Imagine Records, 1999
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/01/1999
Is it possible in an alternative music world to sound original while building on the efforts of bands who came before you?
Good question - and it's not one I'm quite prepared to answer definitively. But in the case of Smash Palace, their disc Fast, Long, Loud combines pop sensibilities with just a bit of country/alternative twang a la the BoDeans. The end result is a decent, if not a bit wandering, effort.
The band - vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Stephen Butler and
vocalist/drummer Brian Butler - are able to take their two-man
operation and convincingly sound like a full band throughout the
bulk of this disc. (To be fair, on two tracks, there is a full
band.) Musically, the group follows some of the same roads that
other bands like The Jayhawks and the BoDeans have carved, but
rarely do they sound like they're trying to mimic those bands'
sound as well. No, Smash Palace is its own animal - and that's one
point in their favor.
I'll admit that it takes some time to really get into this album; it would be far too easy to listen to the opening tracks "Try" and "Turn Another Screw" and write them off as a wanna-be band. Fact is, the beauty of Smash Palace's work doesn't show itself until well into the album. Tracks like "Everything You Bring," "It's All Because," "Death Of Me" and "Let Me Go" all make a strong case for this band. Since the brothers Butler are their own self-contained band, you don't need to hear any one instrument or voice constantly in the forefront. If anything, the way that everything is able to blend together is another facet that makes this disc a special listen.
Unfortunately, such a level of excellence isn't constant on Fast, Long, Loud. The sound tends to get a little old as the album winds down, and their dip into a more country-pop vein as on the album's closer "Riverdale" seems to end the disc on a down note - not the way I would have chosen to finish things off. Still, the mistakes on this disc are few, which is a good sign of promise for Smash Palace.
The one drawback I would admit that Smash Palace has is that they are a band that takes some getting used to. I think I had given this disc five listens before I was ready to give it a listen for review. I question whether some listeners will have that kind of time and patience to let this group grow on them.
Still, Fast, Long, Loud is a good effort from Smash Palace, and serves as a sign that we will probably be hearing a lot more from this band in due time.
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