Zero Hour Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Alternative music is a unique animal in that it takes all the rules of conventional music and throws them out the window. Style and genre often blend several times in the course of an album. If a band knows how to do this blend well, the result is pleasant. If they stumble even a little bit, the resulting sound can be tragic.

Fortunately for Varnaline, their self-titled second effort falls into the first category. Jumping from balls-out rock to introspective acoustic work, Anders Parker and crew create a solid mixture of styles and a great album. (Editor's note: As of this re-posting in April 2002, this disc is out of print.)

That this album is so solid is especially amazing because, prior to this album, Varnaline was a one-man show run by Anders Parker. On this album, he enlists the assistance of brother John on bass and drummer Jud Ehrbar; fortunately, they fit into the mix as if they were always part of it.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The sonic fury of this band is evident on the opening cut "Lights," a song which allows all three instruments to be featured. John Parker's bass work is complicated yet smooth, while Ehrbar's drumming works itself into a controlled frenzy. Topping all this is Andres Parker's chainsaw guitar riffs and slightly haltering vocals (though this actually adds to the power of the track).

When Varnaline kicks into a regular groove, however, they do falter a bit; "Meet Me On The Ledge" lacks the power that I think it was meant to have. The band does show that they are able to perform songs in this vein later on the album with "Empire Blues," "Understanding H." and "God In Your Eyes."

But the true power of Varnaline is not always in their intensity; rather it is in their quiet moments. "Sky'd Out" displays how to convey a message with the hushed tones of the acoustic guitar, while the piano lines in "Really Can't Say" carry more "oomph" than an over-distorted guitar could.

An aspect of Varnaline's music centers on a touch of spirituality, though the music hardly is bible-thumping revivalist music. "God In Your Eyes" is a pretty song that segues - after 20 minutes of silence ( why the hell do bands do this?) - into an uncredited track that sounds a lot like an angelic chorus. Despite the 20 minute delay in getting to this track, it is worth the time searching out and hearing.

The raw production qualities of Varnaline is a two-edged sword for the band. When a track requires a more gritty sound, the production job of Adam Lasus, Jason Cox and the band works to the track's advantage. However, at the times a more somber mood is suggested, occasionally the production takes away from the overall feel. Still, this is not a major stumbling block for the disc.

Varnaline is proof that this three-piece will go places if given the right breaks (and are granted airplay in major markets). Judging from the potential this disc shows, Varnaline is just beginning to hit its creative stride. It will be interesting to hear this band develop and what paths they'll lead us down. Check this disc out and believe for yourself.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Zero Hour Records, and is used for informational purposes only.