Saturday, May 9, 2009

Review: Blue October "Foiled"

With their new album out now, I figured it was high time I checked out what the big stink is about Blue October. Their previous (2006) effort is abundantly available in the used CD bins now, so I could give it a listen without spending a lot of money. After a spin, I see why there is a lot of Blue October being unloaded by audiophiles - beyond the big radio singles "Hate Me" and "Into the Ocean", there is not a lot here that stays fresh.

"Foiled" is an eclectic record, and while a few people might like the constant shifts in sound and speed, others will find it creates a disconnect. The band also incorporates a lot of unexpected sounds (from techno beats to strings); I can admire the adventurous spirit to be daring with the sonic landscape, but too often the choices are not judicious and these elements stick out like a sore thumb. A number of other things foil the record for me. First, the vocals - Justin Furstenfeld displays a striking resemblance to Peter Gabriel; this works well for some of the songs (most effectively "Into the Ocean"), but not so well for the harder songs. He shouts too much or uses distortion on the vocals and it just doesn't sound right. Second, there are not too many hooks in the tunes that make me want to go back and listen anytime soon. The vibe is dark and the hodgepodge of disparate sonic elements is like a musical Frankenstein lurching through the fog.

However, the lyrics will make you remember some of these songs - the word choice is unorthodox at times (I don't recall too many songs with cockroach imagery in them). Often a tormented soul, Furstenfeld deserves credit for laying it all out there with interesting words and even more interesting perspective. Highlights beyond the singles include the near bouncy "Overweight" and the touching acoustic ballad, "18th Floor Balcony".

iPOD-worthy: 3, 5, 8, 13

Blue October on MySpace. Official site.

Video for "Hate Me"

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