Friday, December 07, 2007

Sellaband's The Arrangements

Call me a hopeless romantic, but I'm a sucker for the real shit. I don't eat fast food and I don't wear underwear unless it's 100% cotton. Aluminum baseball bats may save trees, but it's the vintage crack of wood against horsehide that genuinely punctuates a game of baseball. And gravity notwithstanding, two pounds of silicone "seduceth not" as it says in the bible...somewhere.

When it comes to music, it can be difficult to tell the real shit from the just plain shit. Pop music many times takes on the characteristics of self promoting shit of the bull variety and the difference between commercial ad jingles and the programming that interrupts them is getting harder to discern everyday. Where once the radio airwaves carried messages of love, hate, protest or angst, we're now bombarded with things that have all the outward appearances of pop music but the message has become "Buy me, I rhyme" or "Buy me, I look just like a rock star." Songs have become the toy you get with the happy meal and content has taken a back seat to the slick hardware that delivers it. A copy of Masterwriter software and whatever recording program comes free with a hundred dollar interface seems to be all that's needed to create something that will pass for a pop song. Me? I still prefer the real shit.

Sometimes things find you in mysterious ways, Like when you're stumbling around looking for the phone in the dark and smash the long lost television remote under your shoe. This morning, while searching the Sellaband forum for a topic to which I had planned the perfect response, I happened upon a video by an Irish band called The Arrangements. The song is called "Mr Frazier" and contains no additives or, and they, are the real shit.

Without a clue as to how this track was recorded I will go out on a limb and say that it drips with authenticity. The soundscape is simple, uncluttered with processing toys, and to the point. There is not a hint of over-sanitization in this production and I get the feeling that issues like noises or buzzes were dealt with the old fashioned way of playing louder than the problem. The listener is placed square into the band mix and from this vantage point he can almost feel the movement of the kick drum head and smell dust burning on the amp tubes.

The rhythm section of this band plays exceptionally well together not only musically but sonically. Whether through instinct or well-laid plan, The Arrangements sound and feel like a band with like-minded ideals and whatever influences the individual band members have brought to the mix have been allowed to ferment into something greater and more interesting than the parts.

The kick drum and bass are big, fat, accurately played, and groove hard. Consequently the guitars are left with breathing room and the track is tight in its looseness. There is also a sense of size that frequently is missing from recordings. "Mr. Frazier" has punch even when heard through headphones at low volume, a listening method that can geld many recordings that sound great when played loud.

"Mr. Frazier" is well written and the vocals are performed with the conviction and irreverence that mark the difference between pop/rock and sugar-coated pre-fab pop recordings. Minor third and perfect fourth voicings in the background vocals serve to give them a prominent place in the mix without being trite.

Although they don't sound the part, The Arrangements are a relatively new band having formed in spring of 2006. If they can stay the course and persevere in the highly competitive genre they've chosen, it would seem that a bright future lies ahead. And if "Mr. Frazier" is any indication of what is still to come, all of us who prefer the real shit are in for a truck load.