“I would swallow my pride / I would choke on the rinds / But the lack thereof would leave me empty inside / I would swallow my doubt turn it inside out find nothing but faith in nothing”. So spoke Eve 6 on their breakout single, “Inside Out”, from their self-titled debut. And the world was simultaneously impressed and annoyed by these high-schoolers’ verbosity. I remember thinking, “Nobody says ‘lack thereof’ in rock and roll!” And I stand by that. But they did say it, and Eve 6 is still here, and with a brand new album no less. It’s All in Your Head dropped in July, and despite how I may feel about the band’s propensity for long-windedness, with this latest album Eve 6 has proven that they are and will remain a staple of every modern rock radio station’s play list.
Eve 6 actually deserve quite a bit of credit. Already signed to RCA Records by the time they graduated from their Southern California high school, they hit it big with “Inside Out” and didn’t stop touring for a year and a half. Then came their 2000 release, Horoscope, and the success of “Here’s To the Night” — a sappy ballad about not wanting to forget the trials and tribulations of youth. All of this by the time the boys of Eve 6 turned 20.
Well, it’s 2003 and the men of Eve 6 are of legal age, have toured extensively, and have three albums under their belts. This is clearly reflected in It’s All in Your Head. With slick production from newcomer Gregg Wattenberg and mixing from veterans Tom Lord-Alge (Rolling Stones and Hole) and Jim Scott (Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Foo Fighters), the band’s latest effort showcases a sophisticated and polished sound. The trio focuses a lot of energy on their instruments, making guitar, bass, and drums the focal point of the songs, rather than over-the-top lyrical content. Singer/bassist Max Collins has toned down the melodrama without losing any of the emotional punch his lyrics are known for.
“Think Twice”, the hit single and one of the strongest tracks on the album, begins with Collins’s jealousy burning slow and hot until he screams, “What is it you really want? / I’m tired of asking!” By not beating us over the head with his anxiety, Collins allows us to draw our own conclusions about this mysterious girl who has done him wrong. He draws a haunting outline and lets us fill in our own details. Much more effective.
The album opener, “Without You Here”, while not one of Collins’s best lyrical endeavors, features exceptionally intricate rhythms from drummer Tony Fagenson. Paying homage to the classic punk drumming style, Fagenson pounds his way through the two-and-a-half minute quickie at a jubilant pace. As soon as “Without You Here” is over, you’ll forget the song is about missing a girl, but you’re not likely to forget that beat.
“Still Here Waiting” is loud, hard, and fast and, according to Fagenson, makes him “want to yell at bad people”. Recorded in two takes, the song captures a drunken, youthful energy befitting the band members’ age. It’s easy to forget that these guys are still young 20-somethings. Collins commands us to “lay off the Kafka”, lighten up, and stop complaining. Agreed.
“Hey Montana” marks a significant musical departure from the band’s signature, perfectly crafted pop-rock tunes. Collins’s full-bodied belt transforms into a more fragile and mournful version of itself, almost breaking as he tells the story of a girl struggling to get by on her own. Guitarist Jon Siebels plays a hollow and haunting acoustic melody reminiscent of some Western scene around a campfire.
“Bring the Night On” is an unabashed work of moodiness during which Collins begs us to “Turn the light off and leave me where I lay / Bring the night on, not another day”. “Girlfriend” is a corny power ballad with such killer lines as “You left a sock, girlfriend / Where’s the pair? / Broken”. And “Not Gonna Be Alone Tonight” channels Tom Petty both in Siebels’s playing and the vocal harmonies. “Hokis” features some frightening riffs, snippets from an Armenian AM radio station, and Collins bragging about his Armenian girlfriend who’s hotter than he is. Seriously.
Eve 6 did not invent their genre. They’re not musical pioneers, but who cares? It’s All in Your Head rocks from beginning to end. They don’t say “lack thereof” anywhere and, for the most part, avoid lyrical pretentiousness. The trio’s skill as musicians has clearly evolved since their debut back in ’98. I’m a fan. They’re here to stay. Good for them.