CMC International Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I have been doing this job in some way, shape or form for well over a decade now, and there is one thing I've learned about up-and-coming bands after seeing enough of them: they're usually better live.

You see, the live show is where they can display their technique, style and exuberance, as well as to develop their material. By the time you get to their debut album, chances are you'll be thinking that something was lost in the translation. The album is not necessarily bad; it's just... different.

In the case of Sacramento, California's Soulmotor, I haven't had the opportunity to see them perform live. (The fact that I'm in Chicago puts me at a disadvantage.) But after repeated listens to Soulmotor's self-titled debut album, I'm willing to bet that their live performances smoke. As for the album... well, it disappoints a bit.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Had I known going into the album that Soulmotor is the new group of former Tesla bassist Brian Wheat, I probably would have had extremely high expectations - and I probably would have been very disappointed. However, there are times like this where going into a record with a "clean slate" is an advantage. (Stylistically, the two bands are quite different, so you won't see me try to compare Soulmotor to Tesla.)

Sounding similar to Days Of The New with more of an edge and an electric bend, Soulmotor - Wheat, vocalist Darin Wood, guitarist Tommy McClendon and drummer Mike Vanderhule - do show some signs of great things to come. "Good Day To Die" is one such example; with a catchy chorus, solid rhythmic backbone and a well-written song, things seem to be looking very good for Soulmotor.

The problem is that Soulmotor is an album that is hard to get excited over. It takes multiple listens to be able to truly appreciate some of the songs ("Guardian Angel," "Go For A Ride", "Omega Son") - and many listeners might not have the patience or the time to put into an album. By the time the album wraps up, it feels like you've listened to a slightly better than average first effort.

But what strikes me about the songs on Soulmotor is that they don't sound like they were meant for the confinement of the studio; rather, their power is waiting to be uncaged on stage. Chances are once you see this band live, the songs on this disc will take on a whole new meaning and life of their own. (Again, I've not had the pleasure of seeing them live, so I can't verify this for fact.)

Soulmotor have an okay start to their career, but what will they need to push them into overdrive? Three words: touring, touring, touring. Test out new material on stage along with the 12 songs that make up this album. They don't need to work on musical tightness; that's already there. But what they might want to work on is the subtle interplay between the instruments - the little nuances the listener won't naturally be paying attention for, yet will know when they happen.

Soulmotor is a disc that is best suited for the fan who has partaken in their live show, and understands the dynamics of the band well. Without that pleasure, it is a debut that is only a shade above normal.

Rating: B-

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© 1999 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 CMC International Records, and is used for informational purposes only.