05 February 2009

Album Review: Monumental Sonic Architecutre - Monumental Sonic Architecture / Music to Rob Banks To

So apparently there's this band called Monumental Sonic Architecture. Or at least, I think they're (they?) a band, because the back of their self-titled EP credits lyrics to The Evil Genius and music to Topper 3000 respectively. No other aliases are given. Bets are on as to who these people are. Madmen? Criminals? Amateurs? Professionals? In addition to this album, MSA also sent The Blaze a separate EP called Music to Rob Banks To--no credits at all were listed in the liner notes. Possibly even more mysterious is the object being smoked by the unspecified man on the cover of Banks. Is it a joint? A cigarette?

My bet is that it's a cigarette, because MSA doesn't strike me as stoner electronica. They start Music to Rob Banks To with the title track, a short, punchy, grit-sprinkled number that without the lyrics (which are outlaw themed, I should add) might just be suitable for a CSI soundtrack. At least one member of MSA knows how to play the guitar, as this is demonstrated throughout the four-song EP, providing the otherwise cosmic background with some seriously crunchy rhythms alongside some smooth synths. It's almost like electrorock, but MSA plays 70% electronic and only 30% rock. The guitar-playing, though not virtuosic, carries the EP with just the right texture, the jagged edge of a peanut butter face.

If I have a problem with MSA, it's that the vocals don't do anything for the band. I don't want to say that the singer sounds nerdy--because that's not exactly right. I get it--you and a friend wanted to make some ass-kickin' electrorock. You probably took a poll and asked, "Which of us has sweeter pipes?" but it turns out neither of you can sing. Sure, the vocals are passable, but I don't exactly hear you channeling Freddie Mercury, and I wouldn't expect to get famous with a style like that. Singer dude, you kinda remind me of Colin Newman from the band Wire, but not really in a good way. You're like the bastard child of him and Michael Stipe, but you have no range. You really don't. Please understand that before you embarrass yourself in a larger venue.

Moving on to the other release, I understand why MSA chose to roll their songs into two different EPs, rather than one very short album: the Monumental Sonic Architecture EP does not have the same sound as Music to Rob Banks To. To begin with, the mixing and mastering are audibly better on the former release. Everything sounds clearer and crisper (although Banks did not feature lo-fi or amateurish audio quality). Even The Evil Genius sounds better--but only slightly. Another major difference is that the self-titled EP sounds considerably more electronically orientated. Instead of grinding fuzzy rock against offbeat vocals like Banks does, MSA surrounds The Evil Genius with reverb-laden drums, glockenspiels, saw synths, orchestras ans choirs, and beepy-boopy arpeggios. Oh, the guitar riffs still take their place among the madness, but the arrangements are lusher and more spacious.

I have several problems with the saelf-titled EP; among them is short track lengths. There are four songs on the disc, but their total run time is 14.4 minutes. As soon as I being the settle into one song,another takes its place. Also annoying are the vocals--again. They feel restrained, and when I hear a good performance, it always happens on tracks that can't be played on the radio for explicit content. I'm looking at you, "The Diffuser" and "The Bishop." I actually counted the number of euphemisms for excrement uttered in the latter--the count reached 10 in the space of three minutes and twenty-four seconds. That may sound like a paltry figure, but when you're an unknown band with zero radio play, you have no reason to remove yourself from the playing field unless you have a good reason.

Unfortunately, in the case of Monumental Sonic Architecture, I couldn't find one. There's really nothing incredibly special here. Monumental Sonic Architecture is the poor man's alt rock equivalent of The Postal Service, knocked down several notches. Some unknown bands stay unknown for a reason.

Monumental Sonic Architecture and Music to Rob Banks To were releasedi n December of 2008 and can be bought through Amazon and Amie Street.

No comments: