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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Waking State

Hang On

Review by Gary Hill

Make no mistake, this album is modern alternative rock gone pop. If you take that sentence at face value, though, you miss out on quite a bit. The music overall is based around classic rock structures, but they throw a lot of curves balls into the mix. For one thing a lot of this music feels like space rock. Then there are echoes of such bands as the Pixies, Mazzy Star and Radiohead. The female vocals are top notch, as is all the instrumentation. They know how to change up their sound enough to keep it interesting. While this album doesn't hold up it's power all the way through, it comes pretty close. This one is a very strong release for such a new band - and it really leaves you with high hopes for this Washington, D.C. outfit.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
If You're the Devil
Starting with a cool bluesy rock and roll riff, as the vocals come in they twist it around ever so slightly into a very intriguing and effective alternative rock mix. I really like this one a lot and it's a great way to start off the CD. They throw in a smoking instrumental segment, then break it down to an almost techno texture.
Hard to Get Out
This one pounds in with a bit of an industrial sound, but drops back to a more straightforward hard rocking alternative structure (albeit stripped down) to carry onward. While not as strong as the opener, this one is good nonetheless. The industrial textures show up again later in the track and it basically alternates between these two motifs.
Song For Alice
This one comes in more tentatively and begins growing in a gradual format as a mellower piece of music. It's nicely emotional in texture. The vocals on this one are even more potent than those found on a lot of the rest of the disc. This has several intriguing changes in its format, but never falters or even stutters. This one has an almost progressive rock feel at points. They do power it out for a killer retro sounding instrumental segment complete with smoking guitar solo. This one is modern "classic" rock at its best.
Deep Water
Starting with just bass guitar, as this one builds it is in a dark and slightly twisted (appropriate considering the lyrics) ballad like approach. This is another one that is hard edged alternative rock that's simply oozing with style. The arrangement on here is impeccable. They power it up for the chorus.
Mountain
This one begins with a very traditional blues texture, nearly acappela. The band kick in with a killer, slightly odd jam to run through the first verse. Then the chorus twists this into a more mainstream approach, but they drop it back to where they came from with an alternating pattern. This one might take longer to appreciate than a lot of the other material here, but it is also amongst the most intriguing music on show on this album. It's dynamic and just quirky enough to keep things interesting.
Crashed
The arrangement on this one is really strong. It has textures during the verse of a dark spacey ballad. Other elements, though, bring in more of a space rock or jam band sound. This one is another of the standouts to be had with this disc. There are even a few touches of funk on this.
Prodigal Daughter
Mid-tempoed and fun in terms of musical textures, this rocker is another cool one. It has some exceptionally tasty sounds laid over the top of its pretty straightforward backdrop.
My Offering
This one is not really all that exceptional, feeling a bit too much like a lot of the other music on the disc. Honestly on a different album it would be a strong one, but here it's just not as interesting as some of the other stuff.
Hang On
The closing track is mellower ballad like piece that is both very evocative and based a bit in space rock. It has some unusual sounds interspersed in its arrangement, and works pretty well. I'm not a big proponent of using a mellower piece to end a disc, but in this case it was a good choice. This one leaves a nice taste in your mouth. They do power it out, too, but more as an anthemic ballad style.
 
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