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Music Review: The Classic Crime – Vagabonds

April 15, 2010

This album was just released last week, but I feel I have listened to it purposefully enough and have had enough time to make somewhat of a judgment and let you know my thoughts on the third album from The Classic Crime.  Thoughts after the jump.

If I were to equate the first CD by The Classic Crime, Albatross, to a style of movie, it was something like a slam bang action film.  Each song was individually very powerful, the album wasted no time and didn’t slow down.  This made for a very energetic album, but one where the songs didn’t have a whole lot of rhythm or flow as a whole album, just great individual moments.  Their second CD, The Silver Cord, felt like a slightly more nuanced character piece, but still with some great action beats.  The album flowed together much better, I still don’t like to listen to “R&R”, “God and Drugs”, “Medisin”, and “The Ascent” separately.  I love the songs, but they work so much better combined as a whole.  Additionally the first and last track were titled “The End” and “The Beginning” respectively making the album feel more thematic.  But there was definitely less of a powerful feel to the album as a whole, so while it flowed better to me, I can see why some people might not like it as much as Albatross.

For those that are wondering, I feel that Vagabonds is more in the vein of Albatross than The Silver Cord.  There is a bit of flow between some of the tracks, but none of them are more valuable as a whole than they are individually.  This isn’t a problem, but my style of music tends to lean more towards the flowing style of albums from bands like mewithoutYou, The Myriad, MUTEMATH (their first album at least), and Surrogate.  Vagabonds is certainly very effective if you need some fun upbeat rock to play for a group though, much like Albatross.

As far as the individual songs go, I can’t knock any of them too much.  Their big single from the album, “Solar Powered Life”, is unfortunately one of their most simplistic and  repetitive songs and thus not my favorite on the album.  “My Name” isn’t all that memorable of a track, partially because it is sandwiched in between, “The Happy Nihilist” and “Everything & Nothing” which are two of the best songs on the album.  But other than “Solar Powered Life” and “My Name”, which I enjoy, I just don’t think they follow through on the intended punch, I really like the songs on the album.  There is some powerful stuff in Matt MacDonald’s lyrics and the driving music from the band really helps to bring out that power.  The track that probably gets me the most is “Four Chords” when MacDonald gets to the pre-chorus and sings, “Because after all man’s intellect and power, all you get is 650,000 hours, if you’re lucky then you’re dead, says the voice inside my head, keeps me moving on, keeps me singing these songs.”

I really enjoy the style of The Classic Crime in how they can be simple, catchy, and driving without being too simplistic so as to delve into purely creating pop radio hits.  The band straddles a fine line, but it really is the lyrics and voice of Matt MacDonald which keep everything afloat and give the band enough weight so as to not float away into the radio waves.  I am not sure why, but the last song of Vagabonds, “Broken Mess”, really felt like a combination of the the last two songs from the latest Emery album, …In Shallow Seas We Sail.  I am having trouble pinning down just why I think this because the songs are lyrically very different, but the start of each song, with the slow build to the soaring power of the last half of the songs, feels the same.  I think the rhythm of the lyrics of both The Classic Crime and the Emery songs are very similar and that is why I am making the connection, but they feel eerily similar every time that I listen to them.  Let me know if you feel the same about it.

Lastly I wanted to note that I really appreciate the pace with which The Classic Crime works.  Vagabonds was released less than two years after The Silver Cord and the band tours a lot, so they don’t have all that much spare time to just sit around and think.  I wish more bands would work at that pace and release a new album every two years or less and I am really glad that The Classic Crime has done that with their three albums.

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