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Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Apples In Stereo: Tone Soul Evolution


1) Seems So; 2) What’s The #; 3) About Your Fame; 4) Shine A Light; 5) Silver Chain; 6) Get There Fine; 7) The Silvery Light Of A Dream; 8) The Silvery Light Of A Dream (Part Two); 9) We’ll Come To Be; 10) Tin Pan Alley; 11) You Said That Last Night; 12) Try To Remember; 13) Find Our Way; 14) Coda.

Well, the good news is they are at least evolving. The second album sounds everything and noth­ing like the first — everything, because they are still The Apples, not The Oranges, and nothing, because they have changed (a) the production — the crackly, fuzzy lo-fi has been replaced by a cleaner, more discernible sound that actually evokes the band’s favourite music more faithfully (the original Beach Boys would have series of non-stop individual fits listening to the castrated guitar of Noisemaker); (b) the vocals — now we all know that Robert Schneider can really pro­duce a cool, mildly nasal, mildly raspy, ultimately sweet tone somewhere in between Ray Davies and John Lennon; (c) the attitude — this is now much more jangly pop than trippy psycho, with synthesizer effects, overall, discarded for lack of need, and guitars colored in far yellower and oranger tones than they used to be.

Most importantly, Schneider took the time to finally deliver some good songs. Filler still abounds, but now it takes on the form of multiple graciously pleasant fall-offs of tangible peaks. Thus, ‘Shine A Light’ will never bring a tear to my eye the way the Rolling Stones can subdue me with their ‘Shine A Light’ (yes, I know, there is no comparing the two, but the blame falls on Schnei­der — nobody forced him to name the song the way he did), but it opens up with a terrific, inspiring power pop riff, and the vocal melody successfully catches that inspiration and runs along with it, making it the band’s finest effort in life assertion. Then there is ‘Tin Pan Alley’, combining a happy ‘Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da’ ska punch with Birds-like jangle and another catchy bit of singing — also a fav, well deserving of its name this time around (the real Tin Pan Alley guys might not have refused to take in that one... then again, it’s not really TPA style, but who cares).

Some of the songs, like ‘Try To Remember’ and ‘We’ll Come To Be’, this time around, truly ma­ke a bite at capturing the Beatles'’spirit circa Revolver time — they are not so well written, and do not linger long, but they are better at pure jangly pop than psycho; this is passable. The rule of thumb, though, is that generally, the happier they sound, the more rainbow-ish their riffs are, the more chances they stand at making this music last longer than a day. Conversely, when they be­gin the song with a hard-rock riff — ‘What’s The #’ is the earliest and the blandest example of that — they sound like a bunch of diabetics trying to replicate ‘Louie Louie’ at the local karaoke bar. Their acoustic stuff is hardly better: ‘About Your Fame’, a flabby two-minute acoustic and accordeon ballad, only starts getting cool with the introduction of that electric slide one minute into the song (meaning one minute of waiting for goodness and one minute of actual goodness).

So, in the end, this is still hardly Hall of Fame material, but it did show two important things: (a) The Apples were willing to learn, evolve, progress, and grow fins or wings depending on the situ­ation; (b) their chief songwriter did have a certain amount of talent to burn in addition to all that impec­cable taste in influences. It still didn’t quite show why they had to drag along that «In Ste­reo» tag, but that would eventually be explained, too. In the meantime, a very modest thumbs up for all the extra seductive sounds without a solid substance.

1 comment:

  1. Been following you for ages George, and I must say I'm very excited about your Apples reviews, not because I love them so much, rather because I've been craving your opinion of Elephant 6 forever. So far I agree with all your opinions. I think the Apples display breathtaking technical gifts as studio musicians. Schneider really knows how to record and mix and craft harmony and melody...his problem is soul...ironic given the title of this record (Tone Soul Evolution). In all the catalog, he sounds most convincing when he uses that shouting perfectly tuneful Lennon teenager voice of his. To me, when he gets that sort of high pitched growl, he sounds really exciting, but most of the time he is in mid tempo pop song mode. The problem with this style is that his lyrics are beyond banal. He thinks that just because he can write and arrange a modern version of ''Rain" or "Penny Lane," that the words should be throwbacks as well...but they always sound forced and come off as a parody of some pseudo 60s utopia. Has he ever written a real love song that wasn't drenched in cliche? And don't get me started on the awfulness of his anti establishment type songs he includes on every album, really embarrassing. He either can't write honestly, or chooses not to, which sabotoges his obsession with John Lennon. You can't be John if you can't dig deep into your soul. Despite all this, I think he a wonderful producer with excellet taste. When I get a new Apples record, thats what excites me most, hearing how he records pop and fearlessly uses technology to push his retro obsessions into the future. Well that's all. Keep up the good work George.