photo by Jason Stoff

AUCW 2011: The Breaks as The Strokes

by Justin Price and Sean Gartner

An Under Cover Weekend is not just a brilliant introduction to the local music scene in Saint Louis.  It’s also a way to get reacquainted with albums you might have pushed under the rug in the past few years. When I heard that The Breaks would be attacking the catalog of The Strokes for this year’s installment, it  immediately rekindled the love I have for their record Room on Fire. Turns out, the feeling is most certainly mutual: Sean Gartner of The Breaks is a big fan, too. So, we had him provided a little commentary on why that overlooked record is worth a second opinion. By the end of this post, I have no doubt that you’ll have that sweet, symmetrical sound burning up your preferred method of media. Make sure that you make it to Night 2 of AUCW to see The Breaks set The Firebird on fire with blazing jams from the early Aughts.

ROOM ON FIRE

There’s a fairly negative/pessimistic attitude throughout this album, which really doesn’t speak to me personally, but the lyrics are so smart and witty that I can almost hear it playing off sarcastically, which I love.  The real reason I love this album though is just the overall sound and mix of it. It’s still garagey and dirty like the first, but everyone’s tone is slightly expanded into a really nice, full sound. I’m a total “mix snob”. Everyone is loosened up quite a bit too, playing more complicated rhythms and melodies atop each other… all the while keeping one or more parts fairly simple and grounded, making it totally accessible to just about anybody.

“What Ever Happened?”

-A sweet, but not raging, kick to the teeth to get you started, and it kind of lets you know that it’s not just gonna be the all same old stuff with a different packaging. It seems to be part breakup song/part “insecure about living up to first album” song, which just seems hilarious to present as your first song with next to no confidence for the whole album.

“Reptilia”

-Love this one too. The energy from this one just takes the entire band to a level that they hadn’t been to yet. I’m also really surprised that this song had the ability to be so popular; the overlapping melodies & rhythms on the chorus are so bizarre for a “pop” song. I’m not sure I can compare this chorus to anything I’ve ever heard before. I’ve never been a huge fan of the guitar solo though. Oh yeah, I’m a “guitar solo snob” too.

“Automatic Stop”

-I really like odd rhythms for the verses, but for me, the part that really rules about this song is the lead guitar melody for the chorus; totally simple, but it compliments the vocals perfectly. Hotness.

“12:51″

-This song always felt like a love letter to The Cars for me. I really love that the lyrics, literally, could make this a fairly simple love song, but by the end of the song, his vocal tone makes him sound so bored with this girl that he’s almost ashamed of himself. Sung a different way (happier), and this song is pretty lame. That super-chorused guitar sounds great too; it might as well be a synth keyboard. Definitely a stand out song for their entire catalog for me.

“You Talk Way Too Much”

-My favorite Strokes song. Yep. It just sounds so gorgeous and bright, yet the message is totally disappointing and broken-hearted. Having such contrasted music composition to lyrics, it’s just so sarcastic and hilarious to me. Whether it be intentional or not, I love it. Maybe the music is supposed to be the hopeful feeling when his vocals are what’s realistic or his conscience…who knows…who gives a crud, the song sounds fantastic.

“Between Love & Hate” 

-This song is pretty angry…kinda slow too, and that might be one of the reasons I’m not a huge fan of it. Seems like he’s not only being a jerk to this gal, but he’s calling out his listeners, and telling them to eff off….but of course there’s another happy, bouncy chorus for him to chant about how he never needed anyone, and he never will (which the music might be his false pride trying to make himself feel better about being totally heartbroken, too). I do really like the matching lead guitar/vocals in the chorus, though.

“Meet Me in the Bathroom”

-”You trained me not to love/after you taught me what it was”… RAD line. Unsurprisingly, it sounds like another song about a failed relationship. I really like how this one builds, drops down, and then kicks into the chorus with an awesome,driving bass line. I’ve always really loved the way that the lead guitar meets up or harmonizes with the vocal melody during the chorus, without forcing it too much.

“Under Control” 

-This is really the only song that comes to mind when I think “The Strokes’ Slow Jam.” A young love song. Ugh, I loooooove this guitar solo. Jazzy, melodic, simple; it’s probably my favorite guitar solo on the album, and my favorite part of this song. I always rewind and listen to it 5 or 6 times each time I listen to this song.

“The Way It Is” 

-A really awesome way to pick up the end of the album right after the slow jam. Sounds like Julian is finally over this relationship he’s been talking about for the whole album, but still depressed and annoyed. This song is solid, but the only thing that really stands out musically for me is the drums during the verse. It’s a pretty odd, technical breakbeat for a pop-rock song, and the mix makes it sound like it’s coming out of a shitty 90′s CasioTone.

“The End Has No End”

-This one seems to be about life in general, and how it’s really up to you to make yourself happy… and how it’s really frustrating to watch other people make no effort to make their lives better and blame everyone else for it being shitty; however, being that nearly every other song is fairly negative and pessimistic, I could be reading into it wrong. But whatever, that’s what the song is to me. I really like the 80s feel of this one, too; again, kinda of “Cars-y” motivated.

“I Can’t Win”

-Great closer. I think he’s reiterating that he doesn’t think that this album will live up to the first one while he squeezes in one last bit about failed romance; he wants something easier, but doesn’t want an easy lover. This is definitely one of my favorites. Each section is dynamic, but transitions into the next extremely well.

 

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