Music

The Reputation: To Force a Fate

Stephen Haag

The Reputation

To Force a Fate

Label: Lookout!
US Release Date: 2004-04-20
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

The Reputation have forced me to invoke the Walt Whitman Corollary to Critical Review. Lately, I've been bemoaning bands whose albums sound the same from start to finish, pining for variety. Now, with the Reputation's sophomore CD, To Force a Fate, the pendulum swings the other way, and I find myself wishing that the band -- vocalist Elizabeth Elmore, guitarist Sean Hulet, bassist Joel Root, and drummer Chad Romanski (since replaced by Kent Stewart) -- would pick one style and stay with it. Hence, the Whitman Corollary: "Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)". Of course, the band members are invoking the corollary themselves, exploring all the musical facets that interest them ... but we'll get to that later.

It's clear that the Reputation are excited about lots of different kinds of music, and to the band's credit, they're all crack musicians and can genre-hop with ease. But To Force a Fate may induce dizziness in some listeners, jumping from the late '90s alt-rock vibe of opener "Let This Rest" (of course, Elmore's previous band, Sarge, played late '90s alt-rock, so that may explain that), to the Liz Phair-circa-2003 "Face It", to the Jayhawks-esque roots rocker "March". Elmore is a chameleon, cooing and growling, equal parts Gwen Stefani and Phair.

The band seems to have bought into the crazy patchwork quilt quality of To Force a Fate ... or at least the press release trumpeting the album's release hints that they have: it boasts the album "has something for everyone." Trying to be all things to all people is a surefire recipe for disappointing someone. It's hard to rectify this notion of a musician brimming with ideas and exploring different musical venues and being, well, populist, with refining and focusing an artistic vision, becoming elitist and narrowing their potential fanbase. I don't know which way is better, but it's the kind of thing that keeps me up nights ... because I lead a mostly worry-free life.

But I digress. There are a lot of great ideas on To Force a Fate, but I can't get as excited about the band as I feel I should -- who doesn't root for an obviously-talented band, especially in today's barren musical wasteland? For instance, a clever barrelhouse piano drives "Follow-Through Time", and the minor-key piano and strings on "The Ugliness Kicking Around" envelops the whole songs in a smoky, late night vibe. They even approximate the hip NYC retro rock scene on "Some Senseless Day" -- urgent guitars plus a broken-dream invoking chorus ("Wake up some senseless day / And realize you never recognized what you became") equals NYC cool, and To Force a Fate's best song, to boot. To paraphrase Cracker's "Teen Angst": "What the world needs now is another NYC band like I need a hole in my head". The sentiment may be true, but a good song is a good song.

And maybe that's the point (the bit about good songs, not the "hole in my head" part). The Reputation like making good, well-crafted songs that just happen to cross genre boundaries. I still wish the band would focus their energy and talent into one sound and make a great album, rather than a merely good one, as they've done with To Force a Fate -- but that's my problem, not theirs. If you don't agonize over genre categorizations, and can recognize a fun song when you hear it, then maybe you're the type of listener the Reputation is courting.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image