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Album Review: Ether Dome
Underdog's Ether Dome (2020) impressed me with its instruments; however, I wish the lyrics could have matched all that energy.
It's daunting to write a review about a rock band, especially one that's been written about quiet a lot. But we have to get into the business of reviews and reviewing. Underdog, a band from Boston in the United States of America, sent me their press kit.
In it, I see that they have been compared to Nirvana and the Rolling Stones. I've never liked Nirvana much, although I'm conscious of how venerated Kurt Cobain is.
As for the Rolling Stones, I think Rock and Roll rests on Mick Jagger's shoulders. True: when I listen to 'Naughty And Nice', one\of the tracks off Underdog's 2020 album, Ether Dome, I hear some Mick Jagger-ism in his voice, but while the Stones have a smoother sound to them, Underdog has a heavy metal sound to them.
On the song, which makes use of very basic rhymes, the singer curtly sings, 'She's so nice'. (Scott Ferguson sings on some songs and Bryn Carlson sings some). Other words I can hear are 'sugar and spice' and 'everything so nice'. We're not told why the she of the song is naughty and nice. This is a missed opportunity since the listener would be curious why.
Somebody on their press talked about liking Underdog's guitar licks. I agree with this. If their singing fails, or is lacklustre like on '(Naughty and) Nice' and 'Everything I Can', a song where the band sings about doing everything it can, their music stands on their impressive instrumentalism.
With music like the Underdog makes, you can listen to the instruments and give up trying to listen to the lyrics. This gotta be a challenge with rock or metal.
On 'Hell Freezes Over', the singing is more energetic and the piercing guitars, backed by nice drums, are just as impressive.
'Hell freezes over again', the singer shouts, and the energy shakes, or moves, your body as you listen to him sing on.
I love the way the song ends, the way the guitar plays, stops, plays and then stops for good.
The voice is twisted and frantic on 'Muscle Car', a song which references the said car as a 'speed demon'. Again, the shouting from the singing is body-moving.
'Music Box' starts with synth. Underdog toned down the shouting and chose to sing melodiously on this one.
The most sing-along song on Ether Dome is 'Over and Over (Northern Lights)', a song where Scott sings about being older and wiser and back where he has always wanted to be; a song where he asks where the time went.
Living it over, over and over
This is their best song, a mature song; a song where you wish the singer would sing forever, but the guitar is always there to take over and it does.
'Living it over, over and over; little bit older' – here the rhyming is better than on '(Naughty and) Nice'.
It's a song I found myself repeating on certain parts.
Even the parts where Scott or Bryn raise their voice, the sound doesn't come out as shouting.
Bryn is back to shouting on 'Shark Attack'. It's hilarious and sad. Why would anybody shout?
I've panned two to three songs on the album. The other one worth adding is 'Storm', a very forgettable song.
'Struck Like Lightning' is better, if only for a while, better cause the slight change in singing lifts the song up, but like the songs on the album, it relies on the instruments.
For an album that has almost nothing to say about love, I expected 'Suzie My Dear' to rectify that (that's if you consider not singing about love a flaw).
'There Goes The Neighborhood' is an interesting, and ironic song. Bryn is back to his shouting ways, but maybe the shouting is justified as we see a resident bemoaning the fact that the neighbor be playing heavy metal loudly late into the night, at one point suggesting that calling the cops is futile as they won't do anything.
This is reverse-referencing, if you will: a heavy metal group singing about wanting peace and quiet, but I doubt that Underdog is singing about itself here. But since Underdog sings about heavy metal here, I feel justified for having classified the band as a heavy metal band. Perhaps reviewing a rock band is not that hard after all; but describing the licks and riffs is a tricky affair.
There's some bass on 'Underground Rock Band Blues'; the first time, I think, the band's done this. Again this is a self-referential song, the title and lyrics, Scott or Bryn singing about how someone should turn down the music, the loud music making them crazy.
'What's that sound? Turn off that music. It's driving me craaazy'
On this, and on the few tracks I liked – my thinking being that Ether Dome gives your more sound than meaning and words – I want to end this review by taking from the Stones, who say 'You can't always get what you want'. .