[3 August 2004]
Alright gang, let’s just dive right in. Volante frontman Gabe Shapiro penned the tunes for his band’s sophomore album, Static Until Sunrise, while dealing with his father’s failing health—certainly, the album’s title hints at a dark-night-of-the-soul vibe. I would love to share some of Shapiro’s cathartic lyrics, but at the risk of sounding glib, said lyrics have been buried in the mix on all of Static‘s songs, and I can’t make any of them out.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only problem plaguing Static Until Sunrise. The band’s guitarists, Jon and Jeff Mitchell, have a bad habit of over-relying on repetitive, angular, staccato blasts for guitar riffs. Such a sound can be an important tool in a guitarist’s arsenal, adding a sense of urgency and anguish to a song, but on Static the tool becomes blunted and ineffective from overuse. Time and again, the Mitchells’ paranoid guitar lines whitewash a song, whether it’s the otherwise-cascading opener “Blood Let” or the vaguely-emo stylings of “The Sentinel”, robbing it of its power. The effect is suffocating—which may be the point, but it makes for a difficult listen.
A few tunes on the album boast moments that wriggle free of the Tyranny of the Over-Nervy Guitar, but there are too few of them. “Clocks and Watches” finds some breathing room courtesy “space-y noises” that complement the tune’s theme (at least titularly; again, tough lyrics to make out and the internet is no help) of eternity. “Warhol Death Trip” opens with a promising crazy carousel (would you expect any less from a song called “Warhol Death Trip”?)... before reverting to that same old guitar blast stuff. Aargh. Meanwhile, “Better Living” keeps the guitar line, but Shapiro’s vocals sound anguished enough that the pairing works, and it’s the best example of what the band was trying to accomplish with their sound. That said, the best deconstruction of Volante’s sound comes on album closer “Everybody Loses”. Static creeps in around the song like kudzu, it sounds like the guitars are backwards-looped, and slowly all the guitar parts are peeled away, leaving… nothing. Everybody loses; no one can win this race.
Based on the circumstances surrounding Shapiro’s pennings of Static‘s tunes (his aforementioned ill father and Shapiro’s own subsequent post-traumatic illness) and the song’s titles (“Blood Let”, “Clocks and Watches”, “Seeing the Bright Edge”), one can safely surmise that Static Until Sunrise is about mortality. I’m sorry to hear of Shapiro’s family hardships, and plenty of great albums have been borne out of grief and sorrow. Unfortunately, Static Until Sunrise isn’t one of them.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/volante-static/