The problem with most CD reviews is you only
get the opinion of the one critic doing the review. So we thought it might
be fun to try something new here by giving the exact same CD to two different
critics (or more) and see what they each come up with and just how much
difference a single critic's opinion can make.
Note: due to the nature of this series, the reviews
may tend to be more in the first person than you are used to with music
Blue October - Foiled
Travis Becker starts off with his take
He gave it a rating of 2.5 out of 5
Do major labels still release CD's? Apparently
they do, although I'm hard pressed to remember the last time I knowingly
listened to one. Universal, in particular, represents the Gestapo-like
nature of major label uber-corporations, who are content not only to shove
musical gruel down our throats but to then slap a brown t-shirt on each
of our backs advertising how much we like the slop. That being said, after
seeing "Universal" printed on the Blue October CD I was about to play,
I brought the CD player to life with some trepidation. Foiled, the
band's latest offering, manages to rise above their poor taste in labels
to a degree, but still leaves the listener feeling just a bit empty. So
sit back, play Blue October and feel like a major label record executive
for an hour or so.
For starters, Blue October, the Houston-based
post Grunge baby of Justin Furstenfeld, knows how to make a record. You'll
find no quibble here as to the quality of the recording. The production
is detailed and well-textured, with violin lines drifting in and out of
blunted guitar riffs and a backbeat that's solid enough, if a bit mechanical.
One has to hand it to the band in the songwriting department as well. "Hate
Me" and "Sound of Pulling Heaven Down" simmer with loud guitars and bubble
over with greasy hooks and even more mellow tracks like "What if We Could"
and "Everlasting Friend" sustain the boil with some memorable moments.
"Hate Me", even at six minutes plus, stands out as a pretty pleasing single.
Value for money is here, but the album feels a bit long and little attention
was paid to the bland sequencing.
The issue with Foiled arises not
in the nuts and bolts of the record, however, but in the overall feel.
It sounds as if Blue October is trying to create something original with
Foiled. Perhaps that's their problem. While they don't come off
sounding entirely like yet another retread of the Counting Crows/Five for
Fighting/Fuel class of post-Grunge clones, they do come off sounding like
they're trying not to be. Much of the Verve-like faux symphonic elements
feel tacked on, and the entire record rusts up with self awareness. The
band struggles along through the songs trying to suppress guilt and shame
at the music they're playing or maybe some sort of misguided pretension
about how talented they are. The band flirts with sort of a post-punk aesthetic
in their use of the overdone quiet-loud dynamic, but the effort falls a
little flat. They even sneak a couple of affected British accents in there.
Before you all begin to write your nasty
letters, I'm not lampooning Blue October just because they're on a major
label. Not really, anyway. Unfortunately for them, the downfall of Foiled
is the major-label mentality that everything has to sound like something
else. Ultimately, that's pretty much how bands get onto major labels, because
those labels don't want to hear you unless you sound like someone else
who's already hit. Blue October cobbles together a lot of different sounds
from different places and puts in a new pair of laces in hopes that we
won't notice, but in the end they're the same old shoes. Foiled
sounds like a great album with the soul vacuumed out. If that's the sound
you're going for, save yourself eighteen bucks and go turn on the radio.
Now Sara Surprenant gives us her review
She gave it a rating of 4.5 out of
In a musical landscaped filled with bands
labeled as "emo-rockers", Blue October conveys a range of emotions so convincingly
on their new album, Foiled, that even trying to label this band
as "emo" is an insult to their talent, experience, and character.
Foiled is Blue October's first offering
after being dropped and resigned to Universal after 2003's History for
Sale. A smart move on Universal's part, as "Hate Me", the first single
from the album, is already moving up charts and the haunting video is in
rotation on VH1. Foiled is more electrically driven than their previous
release, and the hard-core combinations woven into select songs continue
to be a strong testament to this band's versatility.
Foiled is a story from beginning
to end, filled with love, frustration, resignation, anger, sarcasm, resentment,
and hope. The intentional arrangement of the songs is evident after one
listen, displaying the band's astonishing lyrical and musical diversity.
In the album opener, "You Make Me Smile,"
Justin Furstenfeld employs his customary atypical metaphors to express
his viewpoint. "My words, they pour, like children to the playground" seamlessly
illustrates the excitement of initial attraction. "She's My Ride Home"
describes the intensity of commitment with lyrics such as "We talked, together
sharpening a knife, like killing partners for a life, hey we can hide the
bodies on the ride home." The major strength of this band lies in Furstenfeld's
original and often unsettling lyrics.
"Into the Ocean" depicts a man jumping
off a ship to end it all, not realizing what he had to live for until he
hit the water. The song is ridiculously catchy and the lyrics flow effortlessly.
"What If We Could" opens with a haunting violin intro and is where the
tone of the album takes a turn, beginning pleadingly and ending in angry
"Hate Me" is a beseeching request to spare
a loved one from futile attempts at soul-saving. Currently #5 on Billboard's
Modern Rock chart, "hate me so you can finally see what's good for you"
allows for martyrization in the name of love while Furstenfeld injects
incredible feeling and passion into his words.
The downward spiral continues with the
melancholy "Let It Go," questioning "How could I let it go? Why do I feel?"
The entire song has a fantastic Floyd-esque vibe to it. "Congratulations"
is an ethereal duet with Brit songstress Imogen Heap, followed by "Overweight,"
which exudes a soulful vibe and a dash of gospel.
"X Amount of Words," albeit intentionally
or not, is infused with a beat so infectious you might expect to hear it
at a rave. An angry, impugnable anthem of antipathy, it exclaims "Still
your memory that punches me has broken the bone." "I Drilled a Wire Through
My Cheek" can best be described as a hard-hitting song normally found on
a Nine Inch Nails album. Furstenfeld's anger and aggression pervade every
facet of every lyric.
The album reverts back to a hopeful upswing
with "Sound of Pulling Heaven Down" and "Everlasting Friend." Foiled
concludes in a most unexpected way; with the raw and tender "18th Floor
Balcony." Poignant and heart-breaking in its disbelief true love has been
found again, "I can't believe this is happening to me," it's a song Blue
October fans may never have predicted Furstenfeld to pen but fittingly
ends the album on a optimistic note allowing the story to come full circle.
With Foiled, Blue October continues
"writing the truth no matter what the consequences" and refuses to sacrifice
the originality and vision which has garnered the band an enormous faithful
following. Furstenfeld's gift of sharing his own personal torment has allowed
the band to record an album reminiscent of a trip to hell and back while
making it an unusually pleasurable adventure.
Blue October - Foiled
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