Friday, February 08, 2008

Chris Walla - Field Manual

Having been a Death Cab for Cutie fan for around 7 years, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Chris Walla. He has a great ear for music, which is evident on Death Cab's albums, as well as the other albums that he has produced (Nada Surf, Rocky Votolato, The Long Winters, etc.). And, even though I don't like The Decemberists, I can admit that he did a good job with the production of The Crane Wife.
When I heard that he would be releasing a solo album, I was naturally excited. "Now I can see what he can do without Ben Gibbard."
Well, as it turns out, without Ben Gibbard, he turned into...well...Ben Gibbard. There's not a whole lot musically on this album that wouldn't fit in perfectly on a Death Cab album. Going further than that, his voice sounds almost exactly like Ben Gibbard (I had to check the credits to make sure that it wasn't Ben Gibbard).
None of these things are bad, but those things certainly don't help to give this album a distinctive sound. In fact, the majority of the album sounds like a collection of Death Cab b-sides. And those songs that don't sound like Death Cab b-sides? They sound like Nada Surf b-sides.
It's beginning to sound like I hate the album, but that's not accurate. After 4 listens, I started to come around to it. Once I knew that I wasn't going to find anything "new" on this album, it started to settle in, and I started to like it.
Do I love it? I don't. But there are a number of great songs on here. It starts out a bit slow with "Two-Fifty" (it sounds like he's trying to make it sound extremely important), but it gets noticeably better after that (with the exception of "Archer V. Light"...far and away the worst song on the album).
There are times on the album where it feels like he's trying too hard with his lyrics. Line's like "I don't need to see but I need a vision" (from "A Bird is a Song") make me cringe. There are also a number of political statements on the album, but none of them really seem to stick. I don't hear an urgency or passion in his voice that makes me believe that he really means it. When Dylan makes a political statement in music, I sit up and listen; when Chris Walla does it, it just sort of annoys me.
All in all, a pretty good album. It's not fantastic, but it's not terrible either. I will say that it's slightly better than good.

Rating: 6.5

Favorite Songs: " Geometry & C", "Everybody On", "It's Unsustainable"

Check out his website

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