College rock is a term often heard, but not so much delved into nor understand by the general public. I guess I understand it as a bit of a test market for bands that fly under the radar. Many of these bands originate in college (surprise, surprise), like the widely popular O.A.R. (Of A Revolution), formed at the Ohio State University. It’s not always the big state schools that originate the next big thing. Take Jars of Clay for example – they formed at the tiny Greenville College in Southern Illinois, near St Louis. Could Wheaton College’s Cardinal Harbor be next?
It has been said that the only difference between a local act and a national act is that someone important with a lot of money noticed the national act. Cardinal Harbor, like untold others, could become nationally popular if an influential “gatekeeper” promoted them but what separates them from this paradigm is their level of talent. I hear Dave Matthews and O.A.R. influences all over Faces on Parade. Really. I’ll admit I’m easy to please when it comes to music and I tend to divvy a fair amount of positive reviews – but I promise the praise for Faces on Parade is legit! These six dudes have some chops.
Shout out to the rhythm section driven by drummer Julian Henderson, first of all. When I was a senior at Wheaton College, I recall Henderson and his percussion buddies absolutely CRUSHING the competition at the school’s annual talent show. That sounds rather corny in writing I’ll admit – but this was a big deal. This event spurned campus-limited meme-like things – but I digress. I should probably add that the band contacted IATU with a review request – this isn’t some backhanded way of promoting my alma mater. Actually, the band had their debut performance at the college talent show so this tangent is probably more relevant than you thought it was.
Ah! The music, yes…Faces on Parade is a rather fun record to jam at any volume. Spencer McCreary’s vocals are flawless (check out that falsetto in the hook of “Memo”!). This might not mean a lot to a lot of you readers (yet) but another striking similarity I find here is to my Columbus boys in Forest and the Evergreens. This goes to show how versatile the band is. The appeal of the music is such that most people will probably have different ideas about the band’s “influences” or whom they sound like. We have moments of peace and moments of pure fun, sometimes in the same song. Most of the time things are just plain fun though (“Round We Go” for example). I mean, who doesn’t love some strategically placed horns, sax and violin, especially when the melodies are so smartly written? The songs take no shortcuts either – the final three tracks clock in at 6 minutes or longer, with “Bone Cold” taking its time yet not slowing down enough to bore us.
Bottom line: Faces on Parade is definitely a pleasant surprise for this audiophile. I just wish I had known about this record earlier in the summer.
RIYL: Dave Matthews Band, O.A.R., Dispatch, Jack Johnson, summer