Saturday, October 5, 2013

Iwrestledabearonce - Late For Nothing

Late For Nothing
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

There’s no real middle ground when it comes to Los Angeles (California, U.S.) based outfit Iwrestledabearonce. The band’s eclectic blend of almost everything under the sun in the musical sense has earned them a devoted following of those who believe they are truly unique, and the rest who simply can’t understand what all the fuss is about. Personally, after having reviewed their last couple of full-length efforts (2009’s ‘It’s All Happening’ and 2011’s ‘Ruining It For Everybody’), I tend to align myself with the latter crowd. Now returning with their third album ‘Late For Nothing’, I was curious to see where the band would head direction wise following the departure of lead vocalist Krysta Cameron (Who took maternity leave) in 2012. And after giving the album a good listen through, it would appear that the change of guard hasn’t had too much of an effect on the rather experimental outfit, with the album sounding like business as usual for the oddball crew – albeit with a couple of new surprises in store for diehard fans.
The opening track ‘Thunder Chunky’ is the first song on the album to showcase some of the more subtle changes that have occurred within the band’s sound in the last couple of years. Despite the band (Who comprise of guitarists/programmers Steven Bradley and John Ganey, bassist Mike ‘Rickshaw’ Martin and drummer Mikey Montgomery) sounding more or less the same initially, it soon becomes apparent that over the course of the entire track, there’s a lot more structure and melody to be found in the band’s song writing this time around. That’s not to say the track is completely devoid of its quirky moments, but ‘Thunder Chunky’ does seem to flow more than anything the band has attempted before in the past, and it works quite well.
But if there’s one aspect of the band’s sound that will have most intrigued, its how Courtney LaPlante (Who’s been in the band since midway through 2012) fills the void left behind by Krysta Cameron. And in all honesty, there’s not a huge amount of difference. She’s a capable vocalist for the most part, and her role of injecting melody into the band’s experimental style of music works just like it did in the past. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of her vocals (She sounds a bit bored and monotone-like for me), but then again I didn’t think Cameron was anything special either. So for me, LaPlante’s performance here meets my expectations.
The rather straight forward and simplified approach to song writing within the band becomes more apparent in the follow-up track ‘Letters To Stallone’, where the band keep the experimental/chaotic passages some distance away from the clean vocalised choruses, while on ‘Snake Charmer’, the band tone down the accessibility aspect of things to make way for something a little more challenging and unpredictable.
Much like the band’s former releases, there’s a clear distinction between the tracks that work, and those that don’t. And a track that slots neatly into the latter category is ‘Boat Paddle’. LaPlante sounds far too bland and lifeless on this track, and it’s one of the better examples of where her vocals actually take away from anything impressive the band might otherwise be doing in the background. The same issue can be said for ‘Mind The Gap’ and ‘The Map’. But it’s not all LaPlante’s fault, as the band as a whole seem to fail to provide anything we haven’t already heard before on the generic sounding ‘That’s A Horse Of A Different Color’ and ‘It Don’t Make Me No Nevermind’.
But it’s not all bad news, as the album does offer up a few highlights amongst lacklustre efforts.
While hardly the album’s strongest track, ‘Firebees’ boasts some well performed vocal melodies from LaPlante and cool keyboards that tie in perfectly with the song title, while Steve Vai’s guest guitar contributions to ‘Carnage Asada’ gives the song a lift beyond the same old sound we would otherwise get from the band.
Other noteworthy tracks include ‘I’d Buy That For A Dollar’ and ‘Inside Job’, which are some of the better examples of what LaPlante can achieve on the vocal front when she puts something into her delivery.
I can’t say that I’ve ever really been a huge fan of Iwrestledabearonce based on their past efforts, and I’m not one now after giving ‘Late For Nothing’ a good run through. But I will go as far as to say that on their latest effort, it’s clear that the band have matured a little in terms of their song writing. Unfortunately, its other areas where the band need to work on in order to take their sound to the next level.
In the end, fans will find plenty to enjoy from the band on ‘Late For Nothing’. Those who couldn’t find anything of merit in the band’s music in the past won’t find this new album changing their opinions one bit.

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© Justin Donnelly

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