Sound And Shape are a power trio from Nashville, comprised of Ryan Caudle, Allen Jones, and Gaines Cooper. Previously the band has released a full-length and two EP’s since forming in 2005 (Caudle is a constant, but other band members have been involved at different times). Hourglass is their new record, out now. I’ve had a chance to take a listen over the past few days, and I’ve formed some thoughts I’d like to share.
First off, they’re very good musically. The band brings in some interesting sounds and create constantly changing dynamics. Bored is not a word you would use to describe the listening experience with Sound And Shape. Check out the scorching guitar licks on opening track “No Time To Explain,” followed by those kicking drums, and you get a pretty good idea of what you’re in for.
Coming in at about twenty five minutes spread out over eight tracks, Hourglass moves along pretty quickly. A good choice, I think, keeping it brief. It leaves a listener wanting more, but it also removes any superfluous noise that doesn’t help the song. I would much rather have a record be a little short than have fifteen minutes of jam session BS or weird interludes of music that just acts as filler. Rock and Roll is supposed to be fast and hard anyway, right?
Of the eight songs, I really like half of them. There’s a bit of schizophrenia going on with Hourglass that takes me out of the listening experience. On the one side Sound and Shape is a hard-rocking-take-no-prisoners group of ass kickers. On the other, it’s a hodgepodge of U2 and Duran Duran in their “Ordinary World” days. Surprisingly, the band seems to be equally adept at playing both styles. The problem is hearing them together just doesn’t make sense.
The title track, “Hourglass,” is one of the good ones. It’s stuck between two songs that don’t match it’s strengths in music or lyricism, so it loses some of its power. “Signal” in front of it would fit in very well with The All-American Rejects or Blink-182, which could be seen as a positive or a negative depending on who you talk to. I see it both ways-it has mass appeal and I would guess that a lot of people will like that song. I’m just not one of them. Back into “Hourglass” you can feel the change immediately. It’s a bit darker and the guitar work really elevates in short flashes. Then the organ drops in and blows the whole thing sky high.
The first three songs on this record are all winners. I think one of the things that upsets me about Hourglass is that it falls off hard after that. The band regains some of the momentum with the title track, but for the most part I could do without the second half. These guys are more talented than this. It’s evident on the songs that I like that they know how to play. Maybe if they had held off for a while longer and just released another EP, or two EP’s-one with the rocking half and the other with the slower stuff-it might be better.
I’ll say this, I like Caudle. He’s got a good voice, plays guitar like a demon, and can pen a tune. Cooper on bass and Jones on drums both do good work, but this is Caudle’s show. I almost feel like maybe he should just commit to going solo and put out something self-produced to avoid outside input. As it stands, there seems to be too many chefs in the kitchen, causing inconsistencies in the sound. Sometimes that can work and a really eclectic album comes together perfectly. In this case it just runs out of steam.
Songs I like: “No Time To Explain” “Everybody Leaves” “Wolves In The Forest” and “Hourglass”