Thursday, May 26, 2011

"Star Chamber"

Song Title: "Star Chamber"
Artist: North Atlantic Oscillation
Search Term: "Star Chamber"

One bit of musical misdirection I always fall for is the guitar intro that lulls you into thinking the song will proceed with a certain rhythm, only to force you to quickly recalibrate your location as a listener once the drums kick in and make it clear that the guitar is actually holding down some rhythmic counterpoint within the composition's main trajectory. The first time I can remember getting tricked that way was when I heard Soul Coughing's "Fully Retractable," and I was very impressed by what I found to be a canny bit of legerdemain. More than a decade later, though, I find myself getting confused by guitar intros with dispiriting regularity. For instance, every episode of Top Chef contains a piece of montage music that starts off with a guitar lick that is revealed to be oddly syncopated once the drums appear, and literally every time I hear it, my brain is unable to process the actual beat before I hear the percussion. So given that I am intellectually outmatched by the music package on a reality show, I am uncertain of how much of this phenomenon is artistic cleverness and how much is me slowly ambling down a path of senility that will terminate in my eventual inability to comprehend "We Will Rock You."

Either way, though, I feel compelled to give a band points for successfully accomplishing this maneuver, so North Atlantic Oscillation earns some goodwill right off the bat of this rangy instrumental. The overdriven guitar and stout rhythm section give the song a lot of strength, but the band is also able to gracefully integrate elements like a muted piano break, sort of like a more mature Linkin Park. My problem with the track is that it doesn't strike me as especially musical. Unlike the Te' song I reviewed a while back, which brandished hooks big enough to easily keep up with the hulking arrangement, "Star Chamber" expends a lot of energy without putting forth any sort of memorable tune. These guys are clearly fine architects, so I'd be curious to hear whether their vocal tracks fuse into something with more substance, but although this piece itself effortlessly bested me right off the bat, it ultimately never won my admiration.

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