Wednesday, September 24, 2008

National Meet Me In St Louis Day

Two posts in one day. Who'd have thunk it? But this one's nostalgic. It's to celebrate the one year anniversary of the sorely missed Meet Me In St Louis' debut release Variations On Swing. As Kev from Big Scary Monsters proclaims "we're encouraging people to bunk off work, put the album on, crank it up loud and celebrate that date every year!" Well it may be too late to bunk off work but you can surely listen to the monster of an album at full volume and don't worry if you don't have a copy (you should though) because its up on to stream in full and visit the BSM minisite for all your MMISL needs
In the mean time, here's my review of the album I wrote for Keep Hope Inside earlier this year.

Meet Me In St. Louis – Variations On Swing

Variations On Swing is an album for a close-knit community. Its intricate layers of morphing instruments and its fractured time signatures may put off, or even frighten, some listeners but those that “get it” will join the ranks amongst some of the most passionate and faithful of fans. This album, Meet Me In St. Louis' début and only full length release wouldn't have been possible without that legions of followers, who they won over during the untold number of shows in their unduly short, three year career. Their trusting fans helped finance the production of the album through generous donations and MMISL responded with equal passion and commitment.

The ideas displayed on “Variations...” are big and uncompromising. Standard song structures are completely abandoned as each member pushes their instrument, and themselves, past boundaries and into new creative terrain. Opener “ The Torso Has Been Severed In Mid-Thorax” explodes with feedback and distortion and its instantly clear that the band were determined to deliver on the trust of their loyal supporters. The intent in singer Toby's vocals is demanding. It's as if you were face to face with him as he repeats the line “And ones and zeros”, which you quite possibly could have been if you ever saw them live. That's the thing about “Variations...”; with the help of acclaimed producer Alex Newport, Meet Me In St Louis managed to capture the intensity and kineticism of their live shows on tape and it makes the album truly enthralling to behold.

Drum rhythms skip and stutter constantly on “All We Need Is A Little Energon And A Lot Of Luck” leaving the dual guitar attack to weave their way through the minefield left in its wake. While the rest of the band are battling against each other, its Lewis' bass that keeps the tracks on track. Equally steady and chaotic, it helps you navigate through the twists and turns of tracks like “Right This Way, You Maverick Renegade” and “Eins Zwei Drei Hasselhoff!” and drags the rest of the band, kicking and screaming, to each unpredictable and exhausting climax.

The surprisingly acoustic track “I Beat Up The Bathroom” shows a compelling and beautifully emotive side to the band, with Toby's vocals and the twang of the guitar being backed up by sweeping violin strokes and strange electronic knocks. It's a sign of MMISL's maturity that this slow-down in tempo feels congruous with the other nine tracks. “Variations...” is a more coherent, focused and concise collection of songs than their two previously released Eps, it has the feel of a band teetering on the edge of greatness. Maybe without the sudden departure of vocalist Toby, two months after the album's release in September 07 leading to the band's subsequent demise, this promise would have been fulfilled for the band and their loyal fans. But as it stands Variations On Swing is Meet Me In St Louis' grandiose parting gift to those faithful few who gave more than just time to the band. They “got” it and you can too.

Meet Me In St Louis - Eins Zwei Drei Hasselhoff


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