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Published: 2005/08/08
by Randy Ray

The Sound – New Monsoon

Harmonized Records 024

Just when you've got a band figured out…

The first thing you notice about New Monsoon's The Sound is, well, The Sound. This isn’t the New Monsoon that blew away the crowd at last year’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Heck, there are portions of this CD that would scare off the promoters from ever even inviting the band to Colorado. And that is the refreshing hook that got me. The first track, "Journeyman," has guitar passages echoing early Black Sabbath, Kansas, Boston (and a detour into Zeppelin land_ before acoustic guitars and keys ease the tune back to Earth. Classic rock influences? Wait. Come back. Something else is going on here, something far more modern. These tracks are bristling with a social conscience that is raging about Election 2004 and isn’t going to settle for the same results in 2008. The title track is the most politically astute song as Jeff Miller, lead guitarist and vocalist, writes of media overkill brainwashing the masses. We are inundated with loads of propaganda from CNN to Fox News forcing the country to ignore civil liberties and embrace random racism as our homeland is secured for own safety. Turn the tube OFF!

Speaking of ROCK (Were we speaking of rock?), the new (new New? New New? Brand new New? Who knew it'd be new?) New Monsoon sound rocks aplenty. "Journeyman"? Guitar armies attacking complacency. "Sunrise > Dark Perimeter"? Races forward from a gentle piano and "Dark Star"-opening to groove along into a segue detailing a sharp tale of abuse creeping into the periphery of the scene. By the time I reached "Another Night," I had jettisoned the phrase soft rock acoustic world music classic rock band.' These seven musicians were determined to create a solid album that flows without a hint of gab and flab — songs smoke, lyrics are memorable, and the hooks spike the right melodic veins. Huh? Check out "Bridge of the Gods," a real machete slasher.

Yeah, I'm getting carried away with the verbiage but, hey, this is a band that lost its lead singer, main songwriter and bass player 20 months ago. Normally, that would be a blow that would either cripple, TKO, or alter a band's sound so drastically that one wonders, "uh, wha' happen?" Not the case here. As a matter of fact, New Monsoon seems more determined to get to the point on these songs. None of the, "Okay, time for the eight-minute tabla solo followed by a banjo segue that cooks next to Miller on mandolin and the three drummers playing a raga rhythm for the ages." These lengthy moments are now condensed and refined into a single point to yield such majestic peaks like "Broken Picture Window," tabla tastefully placed in the mix next to dreamy Miller vocals and a guitar that arcs over the blend while the piano curls up by the acoustic guitar. A gem that doesn't forget to rock.

The entire collection stands as one unified statement: the sound of a band crafting tight rock songs after moving through a hazardous transition phase. Sorry, call me simple, but tacking on the solo piano piece "Trees" on the end to finish the whole thing is just brilliant: a quiet Buddha moment after the deluge of cacophony. Yes, it'll be interesting to see how they evolve after this milestone. Cheers, you've made a great record. Now what?

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