Proponents of creationism are, if nothing else, incredibly resourceful. Somehow, they manage to be both remarkably active and strangely inert. Whether working under the preferred titles of “creation scientists” or “intelligent design theorists”, creationists have devoted countless hours and dollars to bombarding families, courtrooms, and school boards with their version of Earth’s origin. Though they work with a vast and ever-changing vocabulary, creationists of all stripes have been espousing the same basic argument for hundreds of years; namely, that the most reasonable explanation for the complexities of humanity and its home planet is a divine creator who acted only a few thousand years ago.
With both its name and its music, the Albuquerque-based rock group Of God and Science could spark comparisons with creationists. Superficially, they appear quite ambitious and innovative. The group utilizes an extensive musical vocabulary. In the end, though, they are really just treading the same musical ground that indie rockers have covered for years. Behind the interesting harmonies, offbeat rhythms, and tricky structural shifts are standard melodies and straightforward songs.
Of God and Science’s eponymous debut starts off with a bang. “5’7”” opens with a driving, jarring riff in an unusual meter that propels the rest of the song. The album also closes with a fine song, “Drive Alone”, in which the band’s meandering arrangements, lazy melodies, and forlorn yet persistent lyrics merge successfully and satisfyingly. Unfortunately, the album’s sturdy bookends support little memorable music.
Of God and Science has a strange way of being progressive. They like to tinker with odd time signatures and unusual riffs, and they even flavor their arrangements with dashes of piano and banjo. Whenever singer Matthew Dominguez steps to the mike, however, he delivers the same plaintive melodies that have long been the trademark of midtempo alternative rock. Though the melodic contours Dominguez follows occasionally recall Thom Yorke, Of God and Science never summons even a portion of Radiohead’s emotional power. On some tracks, such as “A Lesson in Decay”, the vocals drag the song down, and only the off-kilter charm of the closing instrumentals manage to save the song. The singing isn’t really the only problem with the album, though. Even the yearning pedal steel lines on the instrumental “Nations Are Cults” don’t help the track develop into anything more than musical wallpaper.
In trying to walk the line between experimentalism and accessibility, Of God and Science will alienate almost all listeners. Being adventurous does not necessarily mean being repellant. Just one example of this fact comes from the world of heavy metal, a musical scene totally removed from Of God and Science’s country-tinged indie songs. System of a Down assaults listeners with more razor-sharp riffs, breakneck meter changes, and stylistic shifts in one song than some bands use in a whole album. They also manage to find success on MTV and commercial radio with each single they release. The reason that the band’s music is so simultaneously progressive and catchy is that its members are dedicated, above all else, to their songs. They understand that good songs need memorable hooks, choruses, and verses. Of God and Science does not. By neglecting to include landmarks in their songs, the men from Albuquerque have created a forgettable album.
The first and last songs on Of God and Science show a band in control of an interesting sound. If the band could hone its craftsmanship and channel its restless impulses into meaningful songs, they could find great success. Until then, listeners will probably find little reason to support Of God and Science. In a world with so many brilliant musical trailblazers, a band with no direction is really going nowhere.
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// Notes from the Road
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