Plumbiferous Media

The Loud Wars - So Many Dynamos

Jun 14th 2009
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The Loud Wars - So Many DynamosSo Many Dynamos
The Loud Wars
Score: 48

So Many Dynamos is a four-man indie group from Illi­nois, formed in 2002 from the remains of two oth­er small bands. Since then, they’ve released three LPs includ­ing their lat­est, The Loud Wars, released June 9th. Giv­en So Many Dynamos’ large range of influ­ences (and their rather amus­ing­ly palin­dromic name), you might assume that their newest release would be inter­est­ing all-around. Sad­ly, this isn’t quite true, and The Loud Wars suf­fers from a num­ber of major flaws which pre­vent it from being bet­ter than aver­age - though its good sec­tions are cer­tain­ly quite interesting.

So Many Dynamos tri­umphs with their instru­men­tals. From the inter­ac­tion between the active bass line and high synth on “New Bones,” the drum line of “Frien­darmy,” or the run­ning, intro­duc­to­ry gui­tar line of “The Nov­el­ty of Haunt­ing,” each track con­tains a unique, gen­er­al­ly excel­lent musi­cal line. Some tracks, like “If You Did­n’t Want to Know” become repet­i­tive enough that they begin to lose their exit­ing qual­i­ties, but So Many Dynamos usu­al­ly knows pre­cise­ly when to change the instru­men­tal lines, whether sub­tly or to a com­plete­ly con­trast­ing section.

Though The Loud Wars begins with an inter­est­ing instru­men­tal intro­duc­tion, the album enters a con­vo­lut­ed, less musi­cal state with the intro­duc­tion of Aaron Sto­val­l’s vocals. Sto­vall is quite ener­getic through­out the album, but his ener­gy seems mis­placed, adding to lyri­cal tem­po rather than adding to the pow­er of his vocals, which end up more like rhyth­mic shout­ing than singing for the much of the album. In addi­tion to ren­der­ing the album less suc­cess­ful than it could have been, this adds an unnec­es­sary feel­ing of weight to the sound which pre­vents it from grow­ing as it should.

Though the music improves appre­cia­bly on tracks where Sto­val­l’s vocals sound more like singing, he runs into prob­lems with the style of his vocals. On tracks such as “Glac­i­ers,” this appears in the form of an odd­ly unen­gag­ing vocal form, while on “Oh, the Dev­as­ta­tion!” the issues lie more in the pat­tern of his vocals. How­ev­er, there are a cou­ple tracks (includ­ing “New Bones”) where Sto­val­l’s vocals are fair­ly well done, thanks to more cre­ative rhythm and pac­ing. The dif­fer­ence between these tracks and the less suc­cess­ful attempts is palpable.

Though the issues with Sto­val­l’s vocals would per­haps not be entire­ly excus­able with excel­lent lyrics, the involved, often non­sen­si­cal and occa­sion­al­ly inane lyrics of The Loud Wars do them no favors at all. Through­out the album, the lyrics are decid­ed­ly less than poet­ic, and it often seems that So Many Dynamos has tried to ram as many syl­la­bles as pos­si­ble into their musi­cal phras­es, to the detri­ment of the track. The first track, “Arti­facts of Sound,” includes a dis­cus­sion of the mer­its of a record as a friend which is con­tin­ued lat­er on the album - a tech­nique that So Many Dynamos appears to be rather fond of, giv­en that it occurs at least four times with dif­fer­ent (invari­ably odd) themes.

In its lyrics, So Many Dynamos has suc­ceed­ed more than any­thing in cre­at­ing a whol­ly dis­con­cert­ing mix­ture of com­pelling and per­plex­ing phras­es. On “The Nov­el­ty of Haunt­ing,” it’s quite off-putting to hear such an awful pun as “I think your demons need some exor­cise!” on the same track as a tru­ly thought-pro­vok­ing descrip­tion of a reflec­tion as “cooled and decom­posed.” The Loud Wars con­tains the occa­sion­al suc­cess­es - “Frien­darmy“ ‘s “We don’t make friends / We build armies” or “The For­mu­la“ ‘s “Evo­lu­tion is such a hard habit to break” - but they’re sur­round­ed by more dis­ap­point­ing lines.

Even though tracks such as “Arti­facts of Sound” may have excel­lent­ly writ­ten instru­men­tal lines, when the vocals and lyrics are includ­ed, the same tracks begin to seem over­wrought, rather than dynam­ic or heavy. Even worse, a few tracks, for exam­ple “Keep It Sim­ple,” devolve into messi­ness when the vocals are added. Regard­less of the wealth that the instru­men­tals sup­ply, only the few tracks on which the vocals suc­ceed end up suc­ceed­ing over­all. On the almost exact­ly four-minute track “Arti­facts of Sound,” So Many Dynamos includ­ed the line “four min­utes is a chore to swal­low,” but that track is not the only hard track to swal­low, as Sto­vall leaves the lis­ten­er with very few com­plete­ly suc­cess­ful tracks, regard­less of how many decent ele­ments The Loud Wars contains.

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