ROADSIDE MONUMENT - EIGHT HOURS AWAY FROM BEING A MAN (*NEW-CD, 1997, Tooth-n-Nail) Indie rock - elite
Sperm Ridden Burden 1:44
Eight Hours Away From Being A Man 4:10
John Wayne Marina 4:50
Sunken Anchor 3:02
Iowa Backroads 4:15
Kansas City 4:34
Tired Of Living With People Who Are Tired Of Living 4:02
Compressor District 7:12
Apartment Over The Peninsula 5:38
Crop Circles 5:22
My Hands Are The Thermometers 4:33
From the opening squeal of feedback to the final caught cymbal crash, "Sperm Ridden Burden" pretty much defines the harder side of Roadside Monument. The song is brief, brutal, raw, and so agonizing (it's about an unwanted pregnancy) that Jonathan Ford was rarely able to get through it live.
From the cycling guitars and swelling horns and strings to the spoken reading of Dostoevsky's "White Nights," "Iowa Backroads" and "Apartment Over the Peninsula" pretty much define the lush side of Roadside Monument. They are capable of breathtaking beauty as few peers could even imagine.
Most songs fall somewhere in between. "Kansas City" is the single best thing here. Its roaring end section--bass and drums pinging and banging like a garage door spring in a cement mixer, Ford's slightly out of tune voice cutting through weakly--is sheer brilliance. "Crop Circles" features an intriguing section where the drums and bass are in 3/4 while the guitar is in 4/4, creating a swirling, off-kilter mess that only lines up every 12 measures, almost like a storm-tossed boat settling in a trough before being swept onto another crest. Then in chimes Ford, howling from the back of the studio, almost as an afterthought, "Where are all my friends?" "Tired of Living With People Who Are Tired of Living," the best title in recent memory, is almost pop, except for its extended, meditative middle. "My Hands Are the Thermometers" positively roars, a pulsing, cacophanous trainwreck of ideas. "Sunken Anchor" is the most harrowing account of salvation since St. Francis of Assisi. No one said pushing the boundaries was easy.
Jonathan Ford and Doug Lorig both have weak, brittle voices at best--witness Ford's voice cracking horrifically when he screams "I will survive!" on "Sperm Ridden Burden"--but that's all part of the effect. Matt Johnson lays down a beat, be it steady and affecting or ripsaw brutal, and they just build up from there. It sounds so simple on paper. It's the way bands used to do it all the time. Nothing processed. Nothing pretentious. It's the sound of a handwritten, chickenscratch lyric sheet, written on a receipt and set to music, long before writing your lyrics in a chickenscratch fashion became faux cool.
Helmet meets Sunny Day Real Estate meets Rites of Spring meets June of 44 meet Slint meets......? Maybe so.
But this is not "Emo." This is not "Math Rock." This is music as it should be done: heart, instruments, and no boundaries. Stop listening for the perfect harmonies. They're not here--they're all on the pop CDs. Stop listening for the guitar solos. I think you're looking for Journey. Just listen.