Saturday, January 2, 2010

J.R. Ewing- Ride Paranoia

      Scandinavia, what is your problem? Between Refused and these guys, I’m halfway convinced that instead of doing the sensible thing and breeding supersoldiers, the entire Nordic region is wasting their precious time building high-pitched scream singers who excel at being both incomprehensible and grating. And if you were wondering who ‘these guys’ are, the answer is J.R. Ewing. On their second album, Ride Paranoia, they deliver a punk-infused haymaker dose of Big Black, with a healthy but less chaotic vaccination of Pg. 99. If those names mean nothing to you, something loud, dark and heavy this way comes.

    The album opens with the muscular “Repetition is Failure”, which for the first 30 seconds recalls Drive Like Jehu, before the briefest flash of Steve Albini vocals and a quick tempo change. All hell breaks loose soon thereafter, and the not-so-foreign tongue-out screaming commences, with some fairly sophisticated guitar to keep it balanced. By track three, it’s easy to treat Ride Paranoia like a phonecall from your mother- drown in out, with the assumption that you’ll be hearing more of the same. The boys from Oslo put some challenging harmony on display, and then fence themselves into it for the next thirteen tracks. To make matters worse, the record suffers from some of the blandest mixing this side of the pond, and it’s difficult to derive which parts are really carrying the song. Everything gets lost in a loose, grey mass of unspectacular and ill-produced noise. Songs like “Pre Summertime Blues” hands you a packet of gardening seeds and a spade when you were expecting to be tasting the fruits of a bands labors, e.g. there are hints of greatness that feel rushed or unfinished, which sadly, is more egregious than just making songs that suck. J.R. Ewing, you seemed like a different kind of band when we first met. We might have to see other people.

    Vocals aside, Ride Paranoia plays out like any given record Sparta have slapped their name on: there aren’t enough good parts to excuse the album's length, and in the worst of cases, its existence. No doubt , “Naked Pavements”, “Laughing with Daggers” and “Midnight Episode” are all strong tracks with an assertive, aggressive sound that could easily find their way into the hearts of punk and post-hardcore fanboys alike. However, Ride Paranoia’s 34 minutes play out like their fourth-to-last track, “The Same Exact Thing”.

Ride Paranoia

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