Tuesday, October 13, 2009

State Radio: Let it Go

State Radio’s Let it Go is, in my opinion, one of the greatest musical offerings the United States has produced in the past five years. The whole album rings with the undertones of Chad Urmston’s (guitar, lead vocals) passionate lyrics and voice. The album begins with the ominous introduction of “Mansin Humanity” (Man’s Inhumanity), which quickly builds into a full sound of minor tones mixed with the tight, complex drumming of Mike “Mad Dog” Najarian. When Urmston begins the vocals, his voice is earnest and clear. The song is by no means the highlight of the album, but adds an important starting block to the work.

The next track, “Calling all Crows” has a very reggae feel, and features Chuck Fay, the bands bassist playing a variety of auxiliary instruments. This track is one of the strongest on the album, and relates directly to the organization Calling all Crows, started by Urmston and Sybil Gallagher to prevent violence against women. (http://www.callingallcrows.org/)

The next track, “Doctor Ron the Actor” is another high point of the album. Heck. The whole album is high points, but what gets me is the introductory lines. “You've been hit with another blow/But still you give love/And you set our souls on fire/You got your instant karma/You son of a fisherman farmer/Born to live, live free or die”. This is just a small testament to the band’s lyrical capability. This track gets rated #3 on the album for me.

“Arsenic & Clover” is the next track, based off of the experiences of Urmston in Zimbabwe. Story goes: Urmston gets parasite, takes arsenic pellets to kill it, counts on luck of the Irish to make sure the arsenic doesn’t kill him. Definitely a throwback to the Year of the Crow album State Radio released in 2007.

“Bohemian Grove” passes by unassumingly, a song suited to the State Radio vibe, but a little slow compared to the rest of the surging and galloping beats of the songs surrounding it. “Knights of Bostonia” is without a doubt the most anticipated track in State Radio’s history. It became a live staple, and for good reason. The tale of childhood knights is one most young boys can relate to, yet through it all Urmston’s strong political views shine. This track gets my number one vote, though it shares the crown with a track to be announced later.

The title track is next, and it is a good one. Its only fault could be that it fits the album a little too well. Its surging, syncopated beat is similar to much of the earlier tracks. “Evolution” serves two purposes on this album. It ties “Bohemian Grove” into the album and delivers the strong, Unitarian message Urmston loves to deliver. This song is good and adds more of the ‘white-reggae’ feel to the album- something any white person who sees snow five months of the year can feel good about. This is most evidenced in the bridge of the song, which bears a striking resemblance to Marley’s “Is this Love”.

“Held Up By the Wires” is the next track, and it is good. This takes the second number one spot (figure that one out), and solely because it is another song we’ve been waiting for. A live mainstay and featured on a number of live demos, this production is killer. It is put together flawlessly, features a number of great things, including an important message, clever lyrics, backup vocals, and of course impressive amounts of good things. Again, that might not make sense, but this song is just too good. A++.

Nearing the end of the album, we get “Blood Escaping Man”- a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey. A stroke of genius on the band’s part by showing off the acoustic prowess of Urmston, whilst bringing the full band in without losing the solo feel of the ballad. The story telling is great and earns this track my number two spot. Its greatness is shown further in the long-winded explanation featured on the “Live at Brattle Theatre” discs available in some versions of the album.

Still and Silent” is the final official track of the album, and it ends it well. The song ties the soft parts of the album in with the strong, overdriven majority. The final, resounding chorus of “How can we stay still and silent?” is a strong ending to this strong album.

The album as a whole holds together marvelously. The highs and lows of the tracks complement each other beautifully and each musician shows a strong side of their abilities. While not my personal favorite of the three studio releases by the band, it certainly warrants a thorough, (or obsessive) listen. I put State Radio’s Let it Go in an important page of my musical tastes.

9 stars out of 10.

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