'This record proves that sometimes those that don't shout make the most noise... The menace mounts with ?Mount Up and Ride': ?take my eyes and take my fingers' he sings as the instruments pile up on one another in a desperate urge to start the dismembering... [and ends] sounding like the pastoral post-rock of Pullman or Loftus, all chiming interlocking patterns of strumming. An excellent example of how talented and misanthropic people can share their worldview with you - definitely worth seeking out.' - David Cowling, www.americana-uk.com, Liverpool, UK, April 2004
Splendid > reviews > 5/25/2005
What happened to songs? That is, where are the great anthems, rife with clever lyrics that we scrutinize at length, searching for meaning to apply in our own lives? With indie groups engrossed in post-rock and pop and Country, and Hollywood baking in the fire of technology, the void for such work is wide, with few willing and qualified takers stepping up to the challenge.
Before you sulk back into a Beatles haze or turn to Celine Dion, hoping she might have something to offer, Rock Plaza Central have something to say... literally. The World Was Hell to Us is focused on songwriting, mixing an interesting melange of folk, old-time country and rock, stripped to the bare basics, along with Chris Eaton's modest, quirky vocals and honest lyrics. Before visions of pot-smoking, stringy-haired hippies fill your head, know that RPC's overall mood comes off as distant nostalgia -- the sort of stuff we only read about in history books, like pioneers crossing the plains (or the Canadian border in this case) or farmers getting together after a hard day's work, or snake-charmers at a revival.
Confused? It's a little hard to describe The World Was Hell to Us using simple descriptive labels, particularly when the only one that applies to this music is so vague: honesty. Eaton delivers his accounts of heartbreak, new love, despair, relationships, and living in the city while yearning for the country, investing each with a guileless earnestness; the band follows suit with minimal contributions that avoid detours, effectively echoing the narrator. They do this, working as pieces of a puzzle, for the majority of the album, with the exception of the relatively explosive "Mount Up and Ride". In the gorgeous "The Things That Bind You", Eaton begins with an almost a capella disclosure, wisps of acoustic guitar punctuating his words as he takes stock of the pieces of a couple's soon-to-be-broken home. The band keeps pace as he describes each possession with simple eloquence, naming the memory and emotion that each conjures. Similarly, in "You Don't Need", our tragic narrator turns "You don't need anybody / you don't need any comfort / you don't need any lovers: you can do it all by yourself" into an ambiguous message -- "you're terrible for possessing these qualities", "I need you" or possibly "cheers, you're so independent". The performances are simple and the orchestration moderate, and Eaton doesn't have the best-trained voice in the world, but the group makes each note count, pouring every drop of their souls into each accordion squeeze, banjo strum and near-falsetto vocal.
Again,it's difficult to adequately explain why RPC's songwriting is so fascinating and endearing. However, as with a lot of the most sublime art, logic, detailed analyses and tales of why something moves you are overrated. It's time you experienced your own conversion at Rock Plaza Central.
-- Dave Madden