The Snap Dragons

The Snap Dragons

Kardia Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/30/1997

It's tough enough to review an independent band whose roots are in a city far from your own. When the band undergoes a major line-up change after the release of their debut album, it makes any criticism of the previous work that much tougher.

Case in point: The Snap Dragons, a Philadelphia-based group who sent me their debut cassette earlier this month. Since the recording of their album, bassist Rich Randolph and drummer Tim Guthridge have left the band, leaving only Ronnie Henry from this lineup to continue the work. (I learned from the band's home page they are now a foursome, and are looking to have new material out early next year.) So, whatever I say about this tape is kind of muted by recent events, and their sound now may be radically different than what I heard in these 12 songs. To make a long story short (too late), take this review with a grain of salt.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Now, then... The Snap Dragons tend to jump from genre to genre, often rather smoothly. They are as comfortable in ballad mode as they are cranking out a pseudo-metal song that sounds like something I'd have heard in the '80s. The jumping from style to style may be distracting to some listeners, but I thought it went rather well.

Henry's vocals and guitar work are the key elements to The Snap Dragons. His work on tracks like "Late" is extraordinary -- but his vocals do have a limit. At their best, he's kind of like Bon Scott; at worst, he sounds like Faster Pussycat's Taime Downe -- yeech. (The first chorus of "For Tomorrow" is a bit painful to listen to -- be warned.)

While The Snap Dragons could have built a solid career on MOR ballads, they're not afraid to turn up the crunch a bit. Songs like "Crawl" could have passed for a Pantera throw-away, and is quite enjoyable, while "911," despite the corny theme (then again, isn't this true for a lot of the glam-metal of the '80s?), is a guilty pleasure. I do wish the guitars had been turned up just a bit, though -- and Guthridge's drum sound just isn't crisp enough, though it comes close on "Late" and "Hour Glass." (With no producer listed on the credits, I don't know who to yell at.)

But for the weaknesses, The Snap Dragons do show their talents, and they show them often. The songwriting is stronger than one might have expected; "It's Not Fair" is a decent effort that showcases the songwriting talents. Guess these next two points are moot, though - Randolph's bass provides a solid anchor (was that him doing the fade-in work on "Clay"?), and Guthridge is a talented enough drummer - if only he could turn it down just a tad on songs like "It's Not Fair," which doesn't always need the stylish snare work.

It's too early in the band's career to tell if they'll make the national scene any time soon, and it's far too early to see how the change from a trio to a four-piece will change the sound. But even for the flaws, The Snap Dragons is worth checking out, both for the songwriting and for the indulgence factor. I'll be interested in hearing future work from this group.

Rating: B-

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© 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 Kardia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.