There was a time in my life, many, many years ago, when you could not stop me from listening to ska music. It was an illness, really. One that I eventually found a cure for, but nonetheless, I was a sick man. Even bands that I have grown to despise like No Doubt and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones were screaming out the windows of my Pontiac Sunbird as I cruised the streets of my hometown as a teenager. Sublime was the biggest band in the world as far as I was concerned in those days, and many agreed with me.
If I had to guess, I would say that at least a couple members of Eleven Dollar Life went through the same kind of phase I did. Judging from a majority of the songs on their LP Shatter the Silence, they may still be in it.
According to their press kit, the band has been compared to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Incubus. I certainly understand the RHCP reference. Not necessarily anything like what the Peppers have done in the last 15 years, but more in line with “Real Men Don’t Kill Coyotes,” which is really the RHCP I like best. I don’t listen to Incubus, so I’ll take their word on that one. [sidenote: I just realized that Blood Sugar Sex Magik came out 21 years ago. Jesus Christ.]
I like the vocals by lead singer Bryan Pray. His voice fits really well with this style of music. He also writes the lyrics for all the songs, and for the most part, they’re pretty good. I like that they’re thought-provoking without being overly complex. I hate it when a songwriter goes all Dennis Miller on the listener and you need a dictionary, The Canterbury Tales, and the “X” volume of the encyclopaedia to keep up with him/her.
All the guys in the band are completely competent on their instruments, if not great. The best part of the band would probably be Kyle Voivodas on drums. I give him props because this is a tough genre for a drummer. Constantly changing tempos and all that make his job the hardest in the group.
There are some pretty sweet guitar riffs by Chad Wynes throughout, and some great acoustic solo work on the track “Relief.” Guitar is the instrument that gets overlooked the most when there’s a funky kind of thing going on. I don’t know why, but it seems like the drums and bass get all the credit for setting the tone of these types of songs, but the guitar is instrumental (not intended) to the overall feel.
I was told to switch out the song “Start It Up” with “Dissolute,” but I don’t see why they can’t both be on the record. I actually like “Start It Up” better. It feels like the kind of song that you might hear on the radio, but one that I wouldn’t turn off immediately (unless Katy Perry was singing it). The song has a PERFECT singalong chorus for live shows, so it seems natural for me to think it should remain on the album. I won’t give the chorus away, but the title reveals most of it, just add in some swear words.
The biggest surprise on Shatter the Silence to me is the abundant use of keys. A lot of times in this kind of music, bands tend to shy away from piano or Hammond B3 or whatever kind of keys you prefer. EDL does the opposite, and the album is better for it. Marc Gee is really talented, and he helps elevate the material above the ordinary. They aren’t featured on every song, but they appear more often than not, and I appreciate that.
I can’t speak much to the bass-playing on this album, because I’m not quite sure who is doing what…the original bassist, Miles Doornbos (currently of Chaperone and a personal friend) hasn’t been there for a while. Eli Namay is the person I assume is playing on the record, and now Chris Karcher is pounding out the rhythmic melodies. What I can hear is good, so well done to whoever is playing. Bass is a very fun thing to play in a band like this, but also quite challenging. I think it’s one of those things you either can or you can’t, and I think you could say with ease that all three of these guys can.
Overall, this is a record that I enjoyed. It reminded me of a time in my life when I could still stand this genre. The band do a good job of breaking down the walls set up by their predecessors, and achieve a fresh sound. As much as I like Shatter the Silence, I think the live show would be even better. So check them out! They’re playing tomorrow night, Friday May 13th, at Abbey Pub in Chicago.