Argh. Why is it that lately every time I review a CD by a band that obviously comes from the same “emo” camp as folks like The Promise Ring, Camber, Mineral, and God-knows-who-else, I feel the need to apologize? This time, I’m not going to, dammit. What can I say? I’m a sucker for this stuff—there’s some part of me that just resonates with shy, sensitive kids who pour their hearts out on tape and let loose their frustrations in guitar noise. Call it whatever you want—post-punk, emo, pop—it doesn’t really matter, and it all does follow the same formula: pretty melodies over loud guitars, paired with impassioned yelling/singing/screaming. Of course, that covers a lot of ground, right there, but you get the idea.
Now, don’t take the above to mean that I’m going to step up and defend every thick glasses-wearing emo kid out there, mind you. I don’t like a lot of this type of music, and I think the majority of it (just like the majority of ANY type of music) is pretty much nonessential. But, in the same way that there’s good hip-hop (Peanut Butter Wolf) and bad (Puff Daddy), good metal (old Metallica) and bad metal (new Metallica), there’s also good emo and bad emo, and this particular CD thankfully happens to fall in the box that doesn’t get emptied every Tuesday.
Albums like this rarely keep me guessing, sound-wise—at this point, who doesn’t know what to expect? You can almost nod along and say “okay, we’re coming to where the song stops, then starts again…not yet…okay, there!” Gods Reflex don’t fall into that structural trap, though, instead choosing to just go whichever way the song and the words seem to want to go. It’s not groundbreaking (think The Promise Ring’s Nothing Feels Good), but it catches me pleasantly off-guard. When the guitars suddenly get quiet near the end of “Why I Hate Texas,” I sit up and notice; same deal with the overfuzzed roar at the start of “Careering.” And best of all, these shifts don’t sound contrived, but feel like a natural, obvious progression after the fact.
As you’d expect, Scenes from a Motel Seduction hits some familiar notes—the beautiful “Rainbows and Frogs” feels like a nod to Braid, one of the few other bands who eschews crunching power chords for delicate, nimble guitar lines, and there’s a serious resemblance to that classic Jawbox sound on “Put Down That Guitar.” Overall, it’s good stuff. Will it save the world or revolutionize indie-rock? I doubt it, but that doesn’t mean Scenes is bad, by a long shot.