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|Seriously Serious Music: Head Held High, "Moments That Make Us"|
|Music - Feature Stories|
|Tuesday, 03 July 2007 02:38|
The MySpace page profile for the Quad Cities trio Head Held High includes upcoming shows, the band's influences, and a response to the prompt "Sounds like." The group has written "a rock band."
It's a fair description, and therein lies a problem.
Based on the band's full-length debut, Moments That Make Us, Head Held High has the chops to make it on a big stage. They're as good as many of the younger, national bands you might compare them to in the muscular-emo vein.
But there's little distinctive about the group's sound, and as competent as the album is in songwriting, performance, and production, it's disappointing that it feels so familiar.
On any of the CD's 13 tracks, you're likely to find some grace note, a touch that confirms the group's strengths. Vocalist/guitarist Jeffrey Loder wails and whines convincingly, and on the occasions he allows a solo, he leaves you wanting more of his six-string squall. A loose, hoarse scream on "Not for You" offers a moment of genuine emotion, matched as his guitar dives to visceral low notes that would make Neil Young proud.
Bassist Kyle Jecklin and drummer Chris "Fish" Archer lock in with Loder to climb and descend and navigate the Smashing Pumpkins-style dynamics (minus the fuzz) and detours, with Archer providing ample percussive texture.
The production is generally clean and serves the music well, with "Smile & Nod" in particular offering well-articulated layers of guitar harmonies under the vocals.
But the tunes, sound, and dynamics often feel rote, and a lack of variety makes the CD more exhausting than it should be.
"A Constellation" and "180" brighten the mood of Moments That Make Us with guitar tones beyond the flat, rhythm-guitar-based hooks, and "Wait" features lovely, tuneful solos that highlight what's missing from the remainder of the album. Even the anger of "You Don't Even Know" feels like warm relief, simply because it's different.
Yet those songs aren't enough of a respite from the earnest emotion that dominates and weighs down the record. What Head Held High needs on Moments That Make Us is genuine levity and a more developed sense of play. That type of lightness that doesn't arrive until the record's bonus track, a punkish throw-away that recalls the silliness of Me First & the Gimme Gimmes crossed with the pop craft of Fountains of Wayne.
That final track would have been better-placed early on the record, because you don't always need to be so serious to be taken seriously.
Head Held High will perform at a CD-release party on Saturday, July 7, at the Redstone Room in downtown Davenport. Sant Elia and If Ever Was a Fire are also on the bill. The show starts at 9 p.m., and admission is $5.
For more information on Head Held High, visit (http://www.myspace.com/headheldhighmusic).
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