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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 criticism.


Blue October - Foiled

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Travis Becker starts off with his take on Foiled
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 of Foiled
She gave it a rating of 4.5 out of 5

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 insistence. 

"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. 


Links

Blue October - Foiled

Label:Universal

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