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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