Eyestrings - Burdened Hands

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Split Difference
Catalog Number: SDR78001
Format: CD
Total Time: 66:04:00

Detroit, Michigan's Eyestrings debut release Burdened Hands sound a bit like where I thought Spock's Beard were going to go after The Light. Especially in the jumping, fiery "Time Will Tell," although this track sounds a lot like late 80s-early 90s Squeeze, as this track has a smart jazz-pop feel. Though there are also times, as on "Funnel," that I thought of early Echolyn, specifically of their first album. But one might also think of Frank Zappa with the ultra-quirky, vaudevillian-esque "Just A Body." Oh, it doesn't start that way, of course. With the dark feel, strong presence of a piano and the leisurely delivery it is in keeping with a prog rock feel - a decidedly American prog rock feel, but prog rock nonetheless. The opening track, "Recovery" feels much the same way, and sustains that feel throughout. But when we get to the chorus of "Just A Body," well, what we get is a happy-go-lucky cheerful popish tune, lyrics aside. In fact, lyrically this is a rather depressingly gloomy album, from the mournful "Dead Supermen" to violent "Time Will Tell." If suicide forms a part of the subtext in this latter track, and I think it does, some of that permeates "Recovery," only here the song ends on a hopeful note; the only song that does.

"Nothing" sounds like a depressed Camel (circa Stationary Traveller), the Camel aspect coming in the smooth, understated choruses. Though, I'll say that vocalist Ryan Parmenter also sounds a bit like Steve Hogarth on the verses of this track (think "Memory Of Water," "Afraid Of Sunlight"). I don't know if "Dead Supermen" refers to the change that the comic book character underwent, "dying" if I recall correctly (not being a Superman follower, this is all I know). Or is it just coincidence and what is meant here is being so overwhelmed by circumstance the one feels powerless, that one is no longer in control of their lives. The latter seems more likely.

Of course, as I said, there is something about American progressive rock that is so specifically American about it. It's not really something I can describe, and while it's an element that can be found in many bands, beyond a general sense, it manifests itself differently. Eyestrings have that element in their music. You can hear it in the sweet, sweeping guitar lines of Alan Rutter and in the soft, understated vocals of Parmenter, the use of piano (or piano-like keyboard passages in this case, also Parmenter).

The tracks that break that gloomy mood are the musically upbeat (again Squeeze come to mind here) "Itchy Tickler" and, as previously mentioned, the catchy, odd-ball track "Just A Body." "Slack Jaw" is quirky as well, taking a trad jazz style rhythm on piano and percussion (Bob Young), played with an odd meter, adding some grizzled vocals and you imagine yourself in some seedy looking bar somewhere. Except for that cascading guitar solo; a waterfall of leads, that, for a time, get swallowed up by keyboards, only come out sedately screaming on the other side. "Time Will Tell" has a groovy rhythm lead by a pumping bass (Mathew Kennedy) and keyboards and acidic guitar leads.

Eyestrings is one of those releases that you play once and "Just A Body" leaps out at you, sticks in your head. It did for me, because it's so catchy. But enough of the rest of the album connects with you because as you play it again and again the rest of the album reveals itself. And you find that even the gloomy tracks have their own appeal - mainly Parmenters vocals, the piano-like keyboard passages and Rutter's guitar, but without Young's solid drum work (ever so subtle on "Nothing") and Kennedy's moody bass, it wouldn't have a foundation to play against. This is a band that can both rock, and play it close to the vest, in the same song. They can create pretty, warm melodies that belie the dark and dismal atmosphere, which will make you enjoy their not so sunny outlook.

Incidently, dark prog runs along the Parmenter family tree, as Ryan's uncle is Matthew Parmenter of Discipline, a band that also includes bassist Kennedy.

Recovery (10:00) / Itchy Tickler (4:05) / Dead Supermen (6:37) / Anachronism (5:42) / Funnel (4:28) / Just A Body (4:59) / Slackjaw (8:45) / Nothing (5:09) / Time Will Tell (3:36) / Empty Box (12:37)

Ryan Parmenter - voice, synth, mellotron sampler, trombone
Mathew Kennedy bass, Moog
Alan Rutter - supporting voice, guitars
Bob Young - drums and percussion

Burdened Hands (2004)
Consumption (2005)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: June 23rd 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.eyestrings.com
Hits: 1096
Language: english


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