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Published: 2004/06/30
by Glenn Alexander

Drop It All – 56 Hope Road

self-released

Writing an album of pop music without hooks is like taking a photograph and not bothering to focus. You might take notice of it, but after a while it just becomes tiresome. You give up and move on to the next one. On Drop It All, 56 Hope Road present an album with a unique sonic presence, but without real adventure or focus. Saxophones full of funk and jazz color the album, punctuated with acoustic guitar playing and deft vocals, but they just don’t deliver a compelling atmosphere. The songs follow similar structures throughout the album, and the two main songwriters (Goveia and Hamilton) don’t differ in style enough to create an interesting juxtaposition to the album, and they don’t mesh enough to thread the album together.

Songs like "Breathe" and "Open Your Sail," by Goveia, are dark and sultry with a distinct inclination towards abstraction. The characters are undeveloped and the lyrics are too vague to conjure up interesting images. Goveia’s vocals are heartfelt and unique, but they just grate on you after a while. His rough and scratchy voice is strained into soulful bursts, and then it grinds its way through the words with a great deal of inflection and bravado, as if he’s desperately trying to show us the song’s intent through his voice rather through the words or the music. While "Breathe" has a groovy outro with a Morphine-laced ambience carrying it into the next tune, the rest of the song is exceedingly annoying and gimmicky, with Goveia trying to infuse a hip-hop styling into the rhymes but failing magnificently.

The lyrics help sum up what’s wrong with this album: "Games and growing pains double Smirnoff/I’m in the zone/Keep pushing to point flip and I’m gone/Lonely hearts filled up with black centipedes/Gypsies…seems like they’re never gonna let me be/It’s time to leave, breathe." With these sort of giddy and depressing ruminations, it makes the album a lot harder to enjoy, even if the music is sometimes daring and playful, like on "5/4."

On the more upbeat songs like "Carolina" and "Cross Double Cross," there is a hint of looseness and, well, fun. These songs have an incredible similarity to an early Dave Matthews, but lack the ability to pull the listener head first into the song, no questions asked. They seem to rhyme for the sake of rhyming, and while the singer seems fully enthused about the story, the listener is totally lost. The words of the stories pick us up, drop us off, and shift ahead, creating little coherence.

Sometimes abstraction and obscurity can create a very interesting and captivating world where we’re free to create our own realities out of the hazy foundation given to us, or maybe the abstraction is captivating enough for us to just sit back and enjoy what it offers. "Drop It All" is lyrically abstract without being visual, giddy without a sense of humor, and dark and dreary without a purpose.

The band’s willingness to fully commit to the sounds and textures of the album is commendable, but its not enough to keep us listening. The songs consistently fail to paint a captivating picture. Instead, they leave us on the outside, looking in, curious what all the commotion is about.

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