Saosin

The Grey EP

Written by: TL on 21/10/2008 17:36:18

Just to give away this review from the get go, I'm going to go ahead and reveal the fact that Saosin's new preview EP, called "The Grey EP" to continue on their previous black and white ones, isn't much to write home about. I'll get back to that later, but first I'm going to let the review become part history-lesson, because despite the fact that Saosin are only slowly crawling towards the release of their second full length album, they're already a band with more history than most. Ever since they first released the now legendary "Translating The Name (Death Do Us Part) EP" (the black one), every subsequent release has been a potential soundtrack to their demise, looming over them warning them not to fall too far from the greatness of their debut.

While the casual listener might not realise it, the reason for all the drama, is the fact that somewhere along the road, Saosin underwent a massive change as a band. There's no telling between which two of the numerous shitty recordings that emerged on the net between the white EP and the self-titled debut full length the band took a turn, but listening closely to old and new stuff alike will reveal some severe differences in arrangement and song writing. On "Translating The Name" the band was simply of a more subtle character than is the case at the moment. Simplistic and mellow melodies formed the base upon which former singer Anthony Green could weave his dazzling harmonies, and when the band then did allow heavier elements into their world, like on "They Perch On Their Stilts.." it sounded crushing because of the perceived dynamics between the quiet and the loud. An emo cliché for certain but nevertheless a tried and true formula for success. Now, as demonstrated clearly on "Saosin", the band's music takes on the character of much more straightforward rock, the volume being fixed firmly in a loud position. Instead of the simple melodies, the band relies on echoing guitar notes that stretch and linger behind power chords to establish a feeling of depth, but the fact remains that, try as you might to maintain your liking for Saosin, anyone can tell that the first album simply didn't own up to "Translating The Name"-era material, even if it did pack its share of good songs.

I know the vast majority prefers to blame the new singer Cove Reber for the bands 'downfall', but while countless live and acoustic performances have shown that Cove, sounding as ridiculously similar to Anthony as he does, still resides in a lesser realm of singers in comparison, a less than perfect singer hasn't stopped hosts of other bands from staying successful, and I'm sure that the Cove/Anthony war would be confined to dark corners of small forums if the actual band had managed to more successfully follow up on their previous material. It's not even like Cove is a horrible singer. One listen to the band's big hit "You're Not Alone" should convince anyone that he's capable of some damn good singing, at least on record.

In any case, it is the talk about changing from haunting underground band to 'ordinary' alternative rock band that leads us back to the subject at hand, "The Grey EP". A release fans have been anxiously awaiting, eyes watering at the thought of the return of screaming to Saosin's soundscape. "Keep Secrets", the first and, in spite of everything, the best, of the three tracks that preview the upcoming sophomore, keeps the promise to some extent, but in my honest opinion, a painstakingly ordinary screamed bridge between two final choruses seems like much too cheap a way for a band with Saosin's reputation to buy back the 'screamo' label. It isn't the screaming that sets "Keep Secrets" apart from the other tracks though, it is the fact that it is the only new song to feature something coming close to a catchy chorus, and it is the distinct lacking of anything memorable, both instrumentally and vocally, that warrants my early harshness towards this EP. Truth be told though, I might've been appeased if the mixing hadn't been left in a state where the sound, even in your headphones, sounds a bit off. As for the acoustic versions, it's hard to care about them the way they've been done. It seems to me that the purpose of an acoustic version of a song is to show how strong the vocals and melodies are even when they don't have a loud wall of sound to hide in. A point the renditions of "Come Close" and "Love Maker" both betray, primarily because Cove boringly has chosen to remain in the same key throughout, rather than empowering the choruses by raising his pitch by an octave, but also because someone has decided to include backup vocals for him to cover behind. One thing is that backup vocals should be left the fuck out of acoustic songs, but another is that this doesn't exactly help Cove's case of proving that he can measure up to Anthony and proving the disbelievers wrong.

Having now gotten my perspective on the whole Saosin-debate out, I promise that I'll be free and clear to focus strictly on the music when the band's next album comes out. About their career, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and wait till I've heard the sophomore before passing judgement, but when it comes to "The Grey EP", I have to say that it seems like an utterly pointless and uninteresting release to all but the most diehard "must-own-everything-by-Saosin" fans.

Download: Keep Secrets, Why Can't You See
For The Fans Of: Saosin, Secret And Whisper
Listen: myspace.com/saosin

Release Date 14.10.2008
Capitol Records

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