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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Dirty Box Nine

Radio Fiction

Review by Gary Hill

This set comes from a southern California outfit. I have to say that I'm probably not the chosen audience for this. I say that because these guys get some great reviews, but I nearly passed on reviewing it because I wasn't sure I could do a positive review. Ultimately, I  decided that while there were some songs that almost completely failed for me, and as a whole it's not completely effective even without those, ultimately there are a few exceptional tunes that make it all worth it, Besides, a lot of people don't listen to albums as a whole, but rather one song at a time these days. This would definitely work better for those type listeners.

I think the first few songs are the highlights here. They just seem to work the best. Some of the later songs have some problems in the vocal department. There is also a real tendency toward a monolithic sound. Even one of the charms of the set gets a little tedious at times. That charm is the guitar lines that are nearly ever present. I remember someone telling me years ago that the Grateful Dead was all about constant, "plink, plink, plink" guitar from Jerry Garcia. While I disagreed with that being a detriment, I could see the point. There is a real same quality to the guitar fills here. It's to the point where, while it really works well on each song, by the end it just feels overdone and a bit tedious.

So, let me just say that there are a few songs here that are easily in the "worth the price of admission" category. There are a couple I'd skip completely, but your mileage may vary. Beyond that, this probably works better song by song than it does as a set. It definitely has its charms, though.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 1. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Show Me Everything That You Are
Psychedelic pop rock brings this tune in, feeling like something that would have fit in the 1960s. The vocals bring more of a modern alternative rock vibe. This is a classy and accessible tune that makes me think of bands like Smashmouth a bit.
GPA
This tune is a lot of fun. It has a bit of an emo edge to it, yet it also fits in well with the opener.
Anytime, Anyplace
A bouncy tune, this really seems to merge the sounds of the two cuts that preceded it. It has more of "GPA" than it does the opener, though. It's fun, but feels a bit samey.  I love the tastefully busy guitar arrangement on this thing, though.
20 Seconds
Starting a bit slower, this is a mellower tune. It doesn't work as well as the previous cuts did. It feels a little awkward and abrasive to me. While it provides some needed variety, I think the set might be stronger without this tune on it. Again the guitar shines, though. This time it's in some fills later in the tune.
I Feel Alright
We're back into up-tempo zones here. This is an emo styled number. The section where a spoken vocal is combined with a sung one is particularly cool. Overall this is fun and one of the highlights of the disc.
Crystal Rae
Leaning more toward a pure punk angle on the opening section, this is a solid tune. It's a little on the abrasive side at times. I like the melodic movement later quite a bit. This does bring some variety.
I Won't Let You Down
More of a balladic cut, this is another that's pretty rough around the edges. I don't think this would have made the cut if I was assembling this set. Yes, it provides some variety, but it just feels like it could use some serious polishing.
Yeah You
Punk and melodic rock merge on this tune. This is fun and quite effective. It's one of the highlights of the set.
My Last Day
A slower, almost dirge-like number in terms of tempo, this has some real alternative edginess to it. Some keyboard textures bring a different feel to the piece.
 
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