Saturday, December 8, 2007

Review: The Vanilla Curve - Deteriorating the Frescoes (2007)

The Vanilla Curve
Deteriorating the Frescoes

Music lovers living in Michigan equate the city of Clarkston with the Detroit area's premier outdoor concert venue, DTE Energy Theater - or Pine Knob, as it will always been known to some of us. Having hosted stellar artists for decades, it stands to reason that Clarkston should produce a number of musical achievers. One such band is The Vanilla Curve, who have steadily been making a name for themselves since dominating local battle of the bands contests and securing distribution of their first album Create. The quintet has returned in 2007 with Deteriorating the Frescoes - a winding, melancholic prog-rock journey.

The overall mood on Deteriorating the Frescoes is, in a word, dark. This is not a roller-coaster ride of emotion. From the desolate atmosphere of "St Marks Concerto Part I", the band launches the listener on a trek shrouded in self-doubt and solitude. Vocalist Mike Bell possesses an emotive style which draws fair comparison to late '90s alternative crooners such as Damon Albarn (Blur) and Sean Nelson (Harvey Danger). He does a commendable job delivering the lyrics with the same sense of loss and bitterness that the rest of The Vanilla Curve conveys with their instruments. Most discernible on Deteriorating the Frescoes is, as on most prog-rock collections, the rhythm section of Tony Wright on bass and Rich Bell behind the kit. Tony's intricate lines are clearly heard on every track, as are Rich's complex patterns and time changes. While most tracks tend to meander a bit too much for my taste, they still put together a decent amount of groove and linear structure for guitarists William Freed and Scott Medlen to lay down some catchy riffs and elaborate solos.

A standout track for me is "Thrown Stones and Broken Windows", with its steady pace and use of strings and keys for added atmosphere. The wistful guitar leads swirl atop an ambling bass line, but the track remains cohesive and focused. The main riff of "Glass Flowers" is catchy, with a bit more low end groove provided by Tony. Overall, the album is a quality offering of moody progressive rock sure to appeal to fans of the darker side of the style.

Track Listing
1 St. Marks Concerto Part I
2 Thrown Stones and Broken Windows
3 A Hidden Agenda
4 Glass Flowers
5 First Broken Promise
6 Stock Market of Indulgences
7 St. Marks Concerto Part II & III
8 Hands of a Surgeon (Second Broken Promise)
9 Unwanted Eyes
10 Lost Evacuation Plan
11 Deteriorating the Frescoes

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