Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Meeting on a Train, Red Monroe

Red Monroe: Meeting on a Train, 3Concentric

The problem with writing about music is that condensed to words, it’s just stupid. Ever read lyric sheets? Thank God for the guitar. Songs tell stories, but the instruments fill in the gaps in meaning. That is what Red Monroe is all about. The depth and breadth that you don’t grasp from the first listen, but are apparent after the third, fifth, and fifteenth hearing separate true art from yesterday’s pop hit. And when you find there’s still more to discover on the fiftieth time through your iPod, you know you’ve found something special.
“Althea” defines what it means to be Red Monroe. Built with background noise from the kitchen, people moving around, and powerful lyrics, this could have been the money song on Meeting on a Train. That is, if the band had decided to use that other version: the studio-produced one with orchestral instruments and a big sound. Instead, they unceremoniously ‘dumped it in the river’ in favor of the track recorded on their porch in one perfect take. They chose the song to stand on its own; simply Eric Steele’s tonal vocals and folk-rock guitar.
Meeting on a Train begins with thirty seconds of scratchy noise before Andrew Snow’s guitar line of “To Be Your God” kicks in, then near monotone vocals and only after the verse do Matt Moffitt’s ominous spacey keyboards enter, pumping the blood of the tune. Steele finds beauty even in dark, violent impulses; the something wild. “Lorelei” could have come off U2’s Joshua Tree. Classically trained, schizophrenic Steele channels Bono with high notes nearly beyond his range and certainly beyond the Irishman’s. “She Waits on a Tidal Wave” is in the same vein. This is the pop anthem, within everyman’s grasp and my personal favorite; Neal Wadley’s bass line gets me all worked up. Da da da da, dum dum dum dum dum – it’s ludicrous to write that out- just go hear it. Remember: you’re in Dallas; you can go hear these guys. Vocal chameleon Steele stretches on every song; on jazzy, apocalyptic “Green Light” he does his best Jim Morrison. “Our Love” was recorded complete with clinking beer glasses, crowd cheers, and countrified hoots for this boot-stomping, hand-clapping bar song. Lyrics such as ‘cupcakes in your hair’ lift up Snow’s crisp, clear guitar and the inventive drumming of Jeff Gilroy.
Do you get the idea that this CD is all over the board? Country, jazz, and rock are infected with intricate experimentalism. Red Monroe isn’t your average band and Meeting on a Train isn’t an average album. This is a music-head’s band, rooted in folk and rock, rising with a good dose of innovation. They are either perfecting the next evolution of rock or are five guys way off in their own heads; the next Pink Floyd, Phish, or even Velvet Underground. This debut release goes a long way to getting them there.

© 2005 Dallas Music Guide

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