Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Mystery CD Review: Chlorophyll (Eponymous)

Mystery CD: Chlorophyll
Found at: Library Book Sale
Price: Probably around fifteen cents
First Impression:

It’s been a while since I did one of these. Heck, it’s been a while since I put anything up here, but I’d like to move past that. That’s right, just pick up and move on like nothing’s changed. Mm hm! That being said, I’d like to point out just how much restraint I’ve exhibited.  This stack of CDs has been sitting around for just about two years now, just waiting for the day that I decide to do another Mystery CD Review. That’s a lot of music right there that I’ve seen every day for the past couple years, thought “maybe I should just… pop one of those into the CD drive and give it a little listen,” slapped myself and said “NO! IT’S FOR THE BLAG!” [sic]


Okay, enough stalling. Let’s take it from the top, why not? And at the top of the pile is… Chlorophyll!  No title. Just Chlorophyll. I guess it’s eponymous. Right off the bat, I like the album artwork. Kind of spooky and otherworldly. It looks like it was photoshopped, but I think it was photoshopped in a way that was meant to look like it was photoshopped, so I think I’m okay with that. Inside art is… upside down, but also cool?


Oh.  Well, that explains a few things. This is actually very reminiscent of the liner notes from “The Mountain” by the Heartless Bastards, except according to the copyright date, this album came out about ten years earlier. I wonder if the Bastards were copying this, or if they were both copying something else. I’ve never heard of this band, but I don’t know who the Bastards’ influences were. Man, now I really want to listen to The Mountain.  Well, Windows Media Player’s already classified this as a Rock album, so I guess that takes the fun out of finding out. Oh well. I thought there was at least a decent chance of this being some nice experimental metal, or maybe electronica… ::sigh::

1. Sunny Day Suicide
Things start off with a nice, crunchy intro, not too energetic but not too blasé. Nice and mellow. Not sure how I feel about the singer, though. He’s kind of breathy, but his voice isn’t bad. No idea what this song is about, but hey, there’s the title sung out nice and clear, and in harmony too. I have to admit I haven’t been listening too hard, though. It’s not really the kind of thing you can listen to too hard. I wouldn’t know a blue sky if it wrapped itself around me… so maybe it’s about depression? Or something? But the part of the refrain that comes after the title is about letting things go… Is he doing the suicide or someone else? I think I’m looking too deeply into this. It’s not a bad song, it’s just a little bland, and that’s disappointing. This is not the kind of music I think of when I see a giant radio telescope towering over windswept and sunbaked mesas.

2. Transmission
Somebody whispers what sounds like “help me” and then a guitar starts playing. This is a little more mellow than the last song, but it’s got a good groove, and I'm actually bobbing my head to it. Seems to be about a road trip, in an old broken down car… not sure what the transmission’s about, but he’s talking about all the things he’s transmitting. I’m a little confused, though, because according to the liner notes, the words stop here but the song’s only half over. Does that mean there’s going to be a two and a half minute guitar solo? Cuz that would be a huge letdown. Ope… no, he’s just repeating some stuff. Okay, now there’s a bit of a guitar solo/instrumental, but it’s not waily and overproduced.  Not at all what I was expecting.  Sometimes it's good to be wrong. Oooh, and there’s muffled talking beneath it all. That’s kind of cool. Huh.  That was actually pretty enjoyable.

3. Gray Skies
Oh hey, something bouncy now. This seems to be a break-up song of the “she dumped me and it sucked but I’m doing okay now” variety. Aaaaaand, yep, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a little disheartening when you can more or less predict what an entire song is going to be about within the first thirty seconds, but oh well. As far as this type of song goes it’s a decent one.  At least, I've certainly heard worse and it's not making me want to gouge my ears out.  Besides, who can argue with that message?  Let her go.  Move on.  Atta boy.

4. Monday

Another bouncy one. Can’t imagine what it’d be about, though. Even when he starts singing it’s a little unclear. It’s actually a little difficult to understand what he’s saying, it almost sounds like he’s mumbling, but singing out at the same time. It’s weirdly muddy. He’s singing to somebody, asking them questions that I’m sure mean a lot to him and the person in question but I can’t really bring myself to care too much. These guys sound a little bit like Vertical Horizon, only on valium and without a singer who sounds like he has a pair. At about three minutes they add a break with a really crunchy distortion effect on the guitar, but it lasts all of ten seconds and then it’s back into blandsville.  So... what was the point of that?

5. Ocean
A mellow guitar opening with an interesting picky riff. The drums come in and this one’s got a solid groove. I’m bobbing my head again. The lyrics are all about the ocean being a metaphor for his emotional issues and relationship things and blah blah blah, but I feel like that’s not really the important part of this one. The instrumentation in this track is what makes it special, and I am really digging all the solid guitar work. The groove is outstanding in this song… honestly, the singing almost gets in the way.

6. Waves Crash
Continuing with the ocean metaphor perhaps? This one’s more up-tempo, and it’s got this big showy lead in with lots of strummed fifths or fourths or something. Kind of a weird, dissonant melody, and I can’t decide if I like it or not, but you know what? At least it’s not the same old boring mainstream rock stuff. That said, though, it’s difficult for me to get into. That weird dissonant opening keeps coming back, but everything in between keeps changing and it doesn’t feel unified at all. The vocals match this one better, though. I mean, it’s more emotional psychobabble and I still don’t care, like, at all, but at least it’s not getting in the way of the song this time.

7. Battlefield
I can imagine them being in concert, saying something like “okay, we’re going to slow it down now,” which would probably make me leave because most of the songs so far have already been pretty dang slow. But in this one you can tell they’re actually trying to make it a slow song. It really doesn’t help that he’s talking about his emotions yet again. I GET IT, YOU HAVE FEELINGS.  I know, I know, that sounds harsh, but this is getting kind of ridiculous.  I have nothing wrong with emotional songs, but this is just.  So.  Boring. The lyrics really are written terribly; Two songs ago he was talking about being an “ocean of feeling/ Emotion unyielding,” and now he’s “a battlefield/ For all of these emotions” and you can just see these guys playing with closed eyes and pained expressions, really giving it their all to try and tell the audience that they're such tortured, lovelorn artists, and it is painfully cheesy. These metaphors aren’t so much metaphors as they are just putting half-assed and cliche’d nametags on intangible concepts. He might as well start calling his indistinct melancholy “Carl” and give it a house in Self Doubt, Arizona, except even THAT would be a level of subtlety far past what I'm hearing.

8. Stargazer
Okay, a throbbing bass and a steady drumbeat. Maybe we’ve got another groover?  ...Please? They’re putting a pretty big buildup into this, and it builds up to… another kind-of-bland rock song. Another case of the lyrics being a heaping helping of I-don’t-care, and the rest of it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It’s not bad, per se... it's not making my ears bleed for instance, but it’s really not interesting. And I guess that’s okay sometimes, but honestly I couldn’t even drive to this. At least these songs are all relatively short. Not a one is over four minutes and fifty seconds, which is a blessing. Any longer and I might not be able to put up with this.

9. Borderlines
The opening guitar part sounds a little warped, like it’s either on an old record or if he was holding onto the whammy bar while he was strumming. Kind of a cool effect, I like it. Oh, hello there solid groove. I missed you. The lyrics continue to be uninteresting and distracting, but they’re structured reasonably well and sound good with the melody. Hang on, are those bongos? They are! They put bongos in there! Just barely enough to be heard, but they’re definitely there. Around halfway through they lyrics get a little more straightforward and to the point, which is a nice change of pace from the non-metaphors and LOOK AT ALL THIS EMOTION. I think I can definitely say this is one of the more solid tracks I’ve heard so far. Figures they’d save it for the end.

10. The World
Another one of those not-bad-but-not-good-either songs. I might even go as far as calling this filler. I think I’m just getting antsy for the home stretch. I haven’t wanted an album to be over this badly since “Picture This” by Huey Lewis and the News (...sorry, Mom).

11. Pulp
Okay, here we go. Just one more! It’s got a decent, driving beat and a good steady tempo. You can tell they’re really trying to end it with a bang, to go out with a roar, but… well, I’m sure you can guess. It’s another case where the lyrics are really holding them back. I’m not even trying to figure out what he’s saying anymore. I caught a glimpse of the lyrics in the liner notes, something about a boy turning into a man… whatever. Again feeling bad for ragging on the vocalist so much… I mean, he’s not a terrible singer- I want to make that clear- but everything he does is just so massively uninteresting it sucks all the fun out of it for me. I would say it would sound better with the vocalist from Vertical Horizon, but then they’d just be Vertical Horizon. The whole song ends in just under four minutes with a quick fade-out on a guitar solo, almost as if to say “...yeah, nevermind.”

Overall Impression: 
Well that was a disappointment. There were a couple good tracks in there, but all in all this entire CD was pretty anemic. It’s even more of a let-down because of the album art, which is absolutely beautiful. After all, that’s what drew me to this CD in the first place. That’s the whole point of the Mystery CD Reviews when you get down to it- here’s some album art that’s an oasis of fresh and interesting in a sea of record covers of people who are either smiling or trying to look badass. Here’s something that, for once, I can’t predict what it’s going to sound like just by looking at it. It’s interesting, it’s different, and it catches my eye. The cover for Chlorophyll is a haunting landscape with an imposing, almost terrifying technological installation, and then you open it up and find out that that’s just a small fraction of what the cover has to offer. It’s a beautiful dreamscape of forgotten places and distant yearning... but when you listen to the actual music, a Jehova’s Witness walks up to you from off in the distance carrying a pamphlet you already know you don’t want to read, and asks if you’d like to discuss his feelings for forty minutes. 
I picked this up at a library book sale. It was the last day and they were doing one of those “fill a bag, pay a dollar” things just to clear out inventory. I cleaned up the rest of the CD rack which consisted pretty much entirely of weird-looking stuff I’d never heard of. I figured it’d be a gold mine for the blag. Considering that I filled up the bag with all the CDs and books I thought I might find interesting, I think I probably ended up paying about fifteen cents for this CD. Having listened to it now, though, I’d probably leave it if I found it on the $1.98 shelf at AmVets. I mean… mostly because I already own it, but still. It’s not an absolutely terrible CD. I’ve heard some absolutely terrible CDs and this isn’t one of them. I can see maybe listening to it on a long road trip, but only if you’ve got someone to talk to. I’m certainly not going to be ripping this to my music library anytime soon. I might hang those liner notes up on my wall, though.  I mean, dayum.

(I just tried to google a picture of the liner notes poster, and I could not even find a single picture of this band anywhere.  Just wanted to throw that out there.)